Creating a strategic plan for your life
Many times in life, we work on tackling the next thing in front of us. We move from grade to grade in school because we are supposed to. Many of us then move on to higher education or the career world because it is expected. This is followed by spending day after day punching the clock because of more of these expectations. At no point in this routine do you ever stop and think about what you want to do in life.
For me, this took the form of completing my PhD and securing my first job in academia. I had encountered many, many challenges along the way. During these learning experiences, I honed my ability to overcome the next challenge that was sent to me in my life. After a series of years, and a series of classes, I’m was left wondering…”now what?” I see an opportunity to direct the next stages in my life.
I see and hear variations of this theme from friends and colleagues. They may be teachers that have been in the classroom and they’re trying to figure out the next steps. They may be academics who are teaching at an institution and trying to identify a next direction. There is a quiet voice in the back of your head that is repeatedly asking…”What am I doing?” or “Why am I here?” This often is an attempt to create the best life possible. Yet, instead of listening to this voice, we continue to address challenges as they come, and deal with the tasks that are set in front of us.
What you need is to discover your personal vision and find the path in life you are meant to follow. Developing a strategic plan, and articulating a clear personal vision statement gives you the opportunity to follow your own template of purpose for your actions. This template, or roadmap gives you the guidance you need to initiate, evaluate, and refine all of your daily activities.
Importance of a strategic plan
Successful businesses and organizations regularly take time to develop, review, and refine their strategic plans. These provide opportunities to define their vision and develop practical actions to enact change. A strategic plan helps you set and achieve long and short term goals while not losing your focus on your long term vision statement. The focus for daily interactions and goals remains grounded in your dreams and aspirations.
In education, this model of thinking makes sense. Most times in teaching and learning, we want to focus on the objectives or goals as we plan and work throughout the day. A focus on backward design indicates that we set the goals before choosing the ways in which we’ll enact them. We should also bring this thinking to our daily interactions. Instead of reacting each day, we should be proactive and consider whether or not our efforts connect to our personal, larger goals. If they do not…why are we doing them?
Elements of a strategic plan
Over the coming weeks, I’ll detail the steps necessary to develop this strategic plan. There are many models available online and in workshops to help you bring your dreams to reality. For my purposes, I’ll focus on five key elements:
Vision — Your “why.” Your vision is your dream, or reason for being. It’s the reason you jump out of bed in the morning ready to tackle the day. It is the statement that you determine, that helps dictate the rest of the elements of your strategic plan.
Goals — Your “what.” The goals are mission statements, or explanations of what you’re going to do, and what you’re not going to do. This also includes an indication of why you’re making these decisions. Your goals are concise, and inspired by your vision.
Objectives — Your “how.” Your objectives indicates how you’ll be successful in achieving your goals. In this, you are also identifying when you’ll be responsible for achieving these goals. Your objectives are specific, measurable, and observable. The objectives also are aligned to your goals and are responsible for making them a reality.
Schedule — Your “when.” This is your action plan. This is your identification of what change is going to happen, and when is it going to happen. You describe in great detail the processes you’ll follow as you act on your objectives. You clearly indicate action steps, dates, resources required, activators or collaborators, and possible resistance.
Routines — Your “strategies.” The final element of this strategic plan is an identification of the tips, tools, and strategies you’ll use on a regular basis to make your schedule run at peak efficiency. This could involve broad, longer term routines like following a 30 day challenge to drink more water, or shorter term strategies like “turn off devices one hour before bedtime.”
Creating a strategic plan for your life
We all have dreams, yet many of us chose not to allow them to become reality. There are many factors that may impede or restrict our ability to find a way to implement this plan. There may be specific people that subscribe to old narratives and chose to see us follow in their footsteps. The thing to remember in this process is that we all create and follow our own learning pathways. We should be the ones to determine the direction, goals, and success of our lives.