From the last two blogs this month, you will hopefully be well on the way to working out where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Now all you have to do is work out how to get there!

Planning is not just about reaching the destination. It’s important to have some fun/satisfaction on the way. Ever hankered after a gadget or toy, or piece of equipment, but when you got it, were disappointed? Sometimes goals can be like this too, so it’s important to enjoy the journey.

There was an interesting article in The Guardian last year on the 5 Regrets of the Dying, where a palliative care nurse pulled together common themes from dying people. These included ‘being true to yourself’, ‘not working so hard’ and ‘choosing to be happier’. When working towards goals it’s important to keep what you are doing in perspective with the overall goal of having an enjoyable life – or a life that you define as satisfying.

Create goal reminders

Once you know what your goals are, it’s a good idea to create a constant reminder of what you are trying to achieve. One good way is to make a big collage of images, words, colours and photos, which capture the essence of what you want. This is sometimes referred to as a vision board. Pin it up somewhere prominent and add to it as you find new images to include.

Maybe there is one word or phrase that resonates deeply for you, if so, make it your screensaver and pin it up on the wall. Some people prefer to have a musical reminder. Whatever works for you, make sure you expose yourself to it regularly, so you always keep your goals in mind as well as remember how it feels to achieve them.

Identify key milestones

Take each goal and figure out what five things have to happen to allow you to achieve it. Then take each of those steps and work out what five things need to happen to achieve each one of those. Keep doing this, until you start to identify individual actions you can take this week.

Organise all the steps you have just identified, and create your overall plan.  If it helps, do this on a huge sheet of paper, or even your wall, using post-it-notes. That way you can move tasks around, as you find out more about how you are going to do them.

Your action list should drop out of this. If it’s helpful for you to do so, put these actions into your diary to make sure you allocate the time you’ll need to do them.

Find the gaps

Looking at your overall plan, are there any skills or knowledge gaps that you need to address. Do you need to acquire any experience or contacts? If so what are you going to do about that? Add the answer to your action list.

Track and review

Work out a system that works for you to track your progress. That could be scoring off actions on a list or colouring in blocks on a paper or electronic plan. Just make sure you keep reviewing that you are on track.

If you have your plan on the wall with post-it-notes, you could take a photograph, then take notes down as you complete them. Then take another photo each month, and see your progress. Put new steps up in a different colour, so you can tell what is your original plan, and what has developed later.

Celebrate your progress, not just your achievements. Actually put how you are going to celebrate onto the plan, so that having that treat becomes something else you need to knock off your to-do list!

Make your plans public

Start to talk about what it is you are working towards. Tell friends and family, and trusted colleagues. You’ll not only get lots of support and encouragement, especially when you share how much thought you have put into it, you may also get useful advice and honest feedback.

It also helps because by talking about your plans, you are also making a public declaration of your intentions. This is a great way of giving your plan more substance and making you accountable.

Another benefit is that friends and family will proudly chat to others about your plans, and you never know when someone knows someone, who knows someone, who could help!

Stay flexible and open

I always think of goals as setting a direction rather than a destination, because they really just give you something to aim for. Working towards a goal, is like heading along a road. There are junctions where you have to decide if left, right or straight on is best. There are lots of side roads, lay-bys, and really interesting detours you would be mad to miss.

If you can keep your overall target in sight, and still take time to enjoy a few detours, not only will you get experiences you didn’t expected, you may be drawn onto a new path you never even knew existed. Goals should never be written in stone, there should always be some room to accommodate real life happening.

No Regrets

Or as Edith Piaf would say, “Non, je ne regretted rien.” Goals are important, but so is perspective, so make sure you watch how your goals are fitting in with all the parts of your life, family, friends, health etc., and keep your regrets to a minimum.

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