“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso
Life is like a treasure hunt – if you succeed, you’ll find treasure in the form of fulfilment of your ambitions and desires.
However, if you never take the time to define the X on your map – as well as plan the route to get there – then you’ll never get there, and instead progress through your life without direction.
Think of your life as a ship. If you let your ship be guided by external influences – such as people close to you or simply societal narrative – then you’re unlikely to ever get where you should really be going, since only you can decide the best course for your life.
In other words, you need to take the wheel and start steering.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to decide what you want your future to look like. After that, you can devise a plan – step by step – detailing how you’re going to get there.
That being said, here are the top four reasons planning ahead is so important.
It helps you to understand what you really want.
When you make a plan for your future, you’re forced to think about what you want that future to look like – and when.
By carving out the time to think about these things, and the work it’ll take to get there, you’ll be better equipped to discern what’s really important to you, and that you’re willing to work for over a long period of time to accomplish.
It enables you to work more efficiently towards your goals.
By having a clear roadmap that shows where you want to go, what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to get there, you can more easily break this down into the daily, weekly and monthly steps you need to take to achieve your goals.
This ensures that all your actions are aligned with the future you envision for yourself, helping you to stay on track and reach your goals as efficiently as possible.
It makes it easier to track your progress.
When you plan ahead, you have something that you can measure your efforts against.
Particularly when you add time-specific goals to your plan, you can track your daily or weekly
progress against your roadmap to check if you’re on track, ahead or behind to achieve your goals, so you can make adjustments to your approach if necessary.
This also helps to reduce the stress associated with uncertainty that many struggle with, as they work towards their goals without knowing exactly if what they’re doing is bringing them any closer to the future they envision.
Overall, you’ll achieve more.
The above benefits of planning ahead combine to help you achieve more and reach your goals more quickly.
Simply knowing where you’re going and what you need to do to get there helps you to stay consistent, motivated and efficient, while providing the transparency you need to change your approach if necessary to bring about the future you envision.
How should you go about planning for your future?
First, you need to figure out what you really want – a.k.a. your life purpose – before you even think about planning for your future.
This will prevent you from incorporating anything into your plan that isn’t incredibly important to you and your sense of fulfilment and happiness.
Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to set your goals the S.M.A.R.T way.
Vague goals can be demotivating, as it’s difficult to pinpoint when you’ve definitively accomplished that goal – and similarly tricky to track your progress towards it.
For example, a goal such as ‘I want to be rich’ is non-specific, whereas a goal such as ‘I want to earn X amount profit from my business’ gives you something to work towards.
You should be able to measure a metric in order to determine whether you’ve achieved a goal. In the example given above, ‘profit’ is the measure we’re judging our success by.
While you shouldn’t limit your hopes and dreams, your goals should be attainable enough that they don’t depress and intimidate you.
In contrast, goals that are challenging but feel doable inspire you to work harder.
Though similar to being attainable, realistic goals are concerned more ensuring you have the time and resources to achieve a goal.
For example, if your goal is to finish project within 6 months – which would be possible if you put in 5 hours of work a day – but you have a full-time job, a family and need to sleep at some point, then this timeframe might not be realistic.
- Time constraint.
The final component of your goal is deciding the time constraint – a.k.a. when the goal should be completed by.
Whether you choose six months, or five or ten years, having a time constraint gives you a deadline, which generates momentum to propel you towards your goal.