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The One Page Personal Plan – How Writing Down Our Goals Can Turn Them Into Reality

Where do you see yourself in 10 to 25 years’ time? Now, that is a big question, isn’t it? Have you ever actually thought about what you REALLY want from life? A lot of people haven’t. It seems so far off. But, thinking about that end goal can actually help you focus on the here and now.

A handy exercise I like to use with clients is the One Page Personal Plan (OPPP). It’s a free tool from Gazelle’s and available on their website. I find it useful because it helps people formulate an image of where they want to get to in their lives, as a precursor to establishing where they want their business to be too. I ask clients to take part in these exercises first because many of us launch companies for a reason. That reason is probably linked to our personal motivations and our personal purpose in life. Often, I find people haven’t thought about it explicitly, we get caught up in everyday life, the churn of day to day business, but if we think about where we want to be explicitly from a personal perspective before we think about it from a business perspective, it enables me (as a coach) to help clients create the right context for thinking about the business.

However, before we get onto the details of the OPPP, I get clients to complete a couple of other tasks. First, I ask: “You are at your own funeral, listening to somebody read your eulogy. What would you want them to say? Or, what is it that is written on your tombstone?” It’s not a particularly nice thought, but it gets you thinking about legacy, about what you really want. If you want to go even further you could ask yourself: “It’s 10 years after you died, what do you want people to still be saying about you?” Actually, it might be nothing! It might be that you want to have slipped away and had nobody notice, and that’s fine if that’s what you want. But for lots of people, that question leads to a “wow” moment because they’ve never thought about it like that before. So, then they start to imagine what they would want their children to think about them after they’ve gone. How they would like to be remembered, what people would miss about them. There might be some legacy they want to have left behind, perhaps a charity, or some cause. Some “thing” that continues to influence lives in a positive way even though you’re no longer there. And as you can already see, if you want that legacy but you’re not working on it now, that’s going to have to come up in the plan somewhere. It could influence what you do from now on.

Once we’ve completed that, I move onto a second pre-exercise task. I ask people to write down the highlights of the last 12 months. At some stage your life will have been humming along nicely (that may not necessarily have been in the last year but think back to when it was), you were at that point in your life when everything just seemed to flow. Things were easy and effortless. Enjoyable and rewarding. Why did it feel like that? What were you doing? Who were you doing it with? Perhaps you were going to the gym regularly, working with a great team, going out for dinner with your significant other, spending time with the kids. Those answers become your “life works well when” list. This allows me to find out what really gives people positive, emotional uplift and reduces stress. That’s something we should all aim for, and can be added to the plan.

Now we’ve done that it’s time to move on to the OPPP. At the top of the page, there is a space for the date. Pick a date that’s between 10 and 25 years in the future. Perhaps your birthday, an anniversary, something you’re going to remember, a date that has meaning for you. Then we go through each of the sections thinking about what we want those things to be like on that specific date.

  • RELATIONSHIPS – who would you like to have in your life? Your children? Your husband/wife? Perhaps you want to be married by then? Put all this down.
  • ACHIEVEMENTS – Do you want to have run 5 marathons? Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro? Written a book? Set up a charity? What is it you would like to have accomplished?
  • RITUALS –What are the rituals that are going to be an important part of your life? The things you do on a regular basis. It might be going to church. It could be sailing, playing golf, doing more yoga, cooking. Anything you would like to be doing often.
  • WEALTH – This might not necessarily be money, perhaps it’s time. But if it is money you need to get specific. How much? What’s your current cost of living? How much do you need to have saved by then? If it is more time you want, you might want to say that by this date you’ll have built your business in a way that allows you to run it one day a week, not five.

If you look down the right side of the page you’ll notice five words there – Finance, Fitness, Friends, Family and Faith. These are all things that successful people have said they were able to take care of that meant they felt contented. So, when you’re writing your list think about how they fit into those categories. And faith doesn’t have to mean religion, it could mean spirituality. Whatever fits you best.

Everything that’s written down needs to be very specific. Cameron Herold in his book ‘Double Double’ said he wanted his company to be a Harvard Business Review case study and they wrote it down, they put it on the wall, and it became a reality. It’s not a personal achievement exactly, but it’s the same. Jeff Hoffman in the book ‘Scale’ said he wanted to travel to 50 different countries and once he made that explicit he ended up setting up a travel company and achieving it. It’s another mental trick. If you just say you want to travel it probably won’t happen, but, if you say I want to go travelling and I want to go to South America for three months in the next 3 years, then it is more likely to happen because you’re being much more specific. These are all things we have control over. Just like business. If we want it to happen in this very specific way, we’ll work out a way of doing it.

Once you’ve completed the 10 to 25 years section of the plan it’s time to work it back to 12 months from now. Go through the sections again, what would you need to be doing in a year from now to be on a trajectory through that 12 months out to the 10 – 25 years goal?

Then it’s time to think about the next 90 days. You need to work out what you need to do in the next 90 days that’ll help you hit those targets at 12 months, and then on to 10/25 years. The Stop/Start lists are really helpful, again, to be very specific. What do you need to start doing straight away to meet those targets? Start going to yoga once a week. Save £500 a month. Visit Mum. Review your pension plan with a financial advisor. In my case, it’s taking my daughter each week to the local climbing wall that she loves.

This all fits in with the fab book, ‘Mini Habits’ by Stephen Guise – start off small, and keep adding until you get to where you want to be. Break it down into bite-size chunks which are small enough that you can’t NOT do it! A daily habit that is small enough you can’t fail at. For example one press up per day. You will always have time for one press up. You can do more but you can never fail. This means you never experience failure, only success, and success helps you stick with.

This is a personal call to action. You now know what your plan is. Where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. Follow it up every 90 days with where you’ve got to. You might find your 12 months goal needs moving out by a quarter, that’s fine because you still know where you are and where you want to be. Go back and make another set of actions to complete over this coming 90 days.

What this is all about is getting people to dig deep, find out what they really want, to write it down and share it. Most people don’t ever do that but planning and sharing can help us focus and give us purpose. Dr Gail Matthews, a professor in Dominican’s Department of Psychology, conducted research into how to reach goals. She found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our aspirations just by writing them down, and 70% reported hitting goals by sending updates to a friend compared to 35% who did not. Dr Matthews said “My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals.”

So let’s get writing!

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