Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Five-Year Plan - Goal Setting

I received quite a few questions on my five-year plan.  I um'd and ah'd for a few weeks, but I decided to share selected pieces of my plan and how I came up with it.  This will be a blog series for the next four to five weeks.  I love blog series!  Makes it all sound so official.

It took me months to figure out what I needed to do and how (with the action plan.  Weeks only for the blog posts.)  With books coming out and storytelling gigs popping up and an exciting job, I felt I needed more guidance in how to prioritize my time and not die of anxiety by the time I was 35.  This journey is supposed to be fun, and it's more fun when it's not completely out of control (at least most days), and when I know where the heck I'm hoping to go, not just aiming my sleigh randomly down the big hill of life (will use non-winter metaphors next, I promise).

The plan is basically a way to prioritize my life's activities.  I have lots of them, so prioritizing is good.  I created this approach from a bunch of ideas, chats with people and long sessions alone in the car talking to myself.   I've been using it as a guideline since March 2010 and so far I'm on track. 

I'm putting in the disclaimer that I think you're all very intelligent and wise individuals, and will in fact understand that because this system has sprouted good results for me, it hardly means it'll work for you. But maybe you'll find a few seeds to help grow your own action plan, if that's what you're hoping to do. (Gardening metaphors.  Promise kept.)  (I have another disclaimer at the end of the blog post, too.  I'm full of disclaimers today!) 

Where to Start

So the first step, and perhaps the hardest step, is goal setting.  I didn't make mine an all-encompassing plan.  I figure that I'd tackle one major goal that I knew could be accomplished solely (or mostly) through my actions. Meaning I'm not setting an impossible goal, like "meet soul mate" or "find Fountain of Youth."  Awesome if I do, but hard to plan for.

The goal has to be simple, straightforward and achievable through personal actions, and not dependent on outside decisions or influences (which is why my goal isn't along the lines of "get published by New York."  That would be neat, but really, I can't control that.  I can help it along, sure, by writing the best books I can and getting my name out there, but it's still ultimately out of my hands.  For all the control freaks out there, make sure you have a good idea of what you can and can't control.  Otherwise you're setting yourself up for failure from the start.)

Choose a realistic goal.

The main part of my goal was to "get more options."  Life is quick, eh?  Ever notice those days, weeks and months slipping through your fingers?  I have, and I hate feeling like I have few options.  "But you do have options," I hear you say. Of course I do.  I live a happy life.  I make sure more days than not are fulfilling and filled with laughter.  That's awesome right there.

But say, five years from now, I decide that I want to become a traveling storyteller/writer?  Say I want to become the first woman to tell the entire Norse cycle while bungee jumping off buildings across the world?  Is that feasible? (I mean, aside from the obvious logistics and mental well-being issues.)

It's not, mostly because my finances demand that I maintain a certain pay scale.  No money = no food.  I don't like that scenario.  I'm rather a fan of food, actually.  I'm lucky in the fact that I love my job and what I do.  Most people don't have that velvet.  But more options doesn't mean changing that happy part of my life.  It could mean just traveling more, marketing my books more, buying a cottage... you get the idea.  And it's not just financial, either.  But you'll see when I get to strategies what I mean by that.

Okay, so to achieve my goal of "more options" within five years, I set strategies and objectives.  Nifty, eh? The goal was the easy part, for me.  As soon as I figured it out and imagined where it would lead me, I felt this immense feeling of well-being and relief.  So imagine you've accomplished your goal, whatever that may be for you, and then see how your future imagined self feels.  Then you'll know if that's the right goal for you.

Next week I'll discuss my first strategy.

**Dislcaimer here: The examples listed here do not fully reflect my five-year plan.  I've ripped out parts of it completely. It's a personal thing, you see.  I love sharing details, but it makes me a tad uncomfortable.  I'm doing a study in breaking out of my comfort zone, I suppose.  Regardless, if you'd like to actually know more, or discuss ideas, e-mail me or buy me a drink when next I see you.  Buy me two drinks and I'll sing the whole plan.  In rhymes, to boot!