Goal Setting vs. Action Planning

by Dan on August 28, 2009

You can set long term goals, but you can’t plan long term actions to achieve those goals.

There are several reasons for this.

For one thing, the seasons change as you move along your path.  Imagine someone in 1990 saying “Twenty years from now, I want my newspaper to be the most widely read publication in the world.”

His plans would involve getting the best contracts with the printing press, getting distribution in every corner store, and building a staff of aggressive salespeople for subscriptions.

This goal attempt would surely fail, simply because he didn’t take the internet into account. He couldn’t consider the internet because it didn’t really exist in 1990. Because his plans are not flexible, he’s doomed to failure, not unlike a recent billionaire who just built the biggest printing plant in Europe, having not accepted that ink and trees are on their way out and instant web information has been “in” for quite a while.

A goal to have a top newspaper, however, can work work if you stay flexible in defining what “newspaper” is. If a newspaper owner can adjust his goal to include online viewings, then he’s fine.

Another reason why long term planning doesn’t work is because when you’re new and unsuccessful, you have a very limited knowledge of opportunities available,  Many doors open once you start having some success, and people that you’d consider out of your network are now offering to help you.  Because of this, planning five years ahead can only be poor planning for most people.

Lastly, it’s that much harder to take your first step of action if you have a daunting amount of tasks ahead of you to finish.  Since you can only go one step at a time, it’s much easier on your confidence to have the end in mind, and plan your next steps as they come.

One of these steps could launch you 10,000 miles ahead of where you were before, but the effort for that one step stays minimal.

When you have 100 planned steps ahead of you, it’s also much easier to quit.  If you kept going, you may have found that most of these steps could be skipped, and you’d be at your goal within ten points of actions instead of 100.

All you need is your goal in mind, plus your willingness to allow it to happen. When you’ve removed your blocks, either opportunities will flock to you, or your final goal will just fall in your lap. Either way, it’s happens with ease, not effort.


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