We talk a lot about planning, and have probably all heard the oft quoted “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. But what is it about planning that makes it so valuable in achieving success and, as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “indispensable in preparation”?
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” — Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower
While “Ike” may have found plans useless, I’d like to share three aspects of planning that I believe make it indispensable both in preparation and to success.
Values – Values are those things we hold dear. They are what animate our lives and motivate us to action. Without identifying, knowing and clarifying our values we tend to drift. Like the saying “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”, it is what we stand for. Values are at the core of our belief system, our character and the basis of our integrity.
Unlike somethings, values are not absolutes, but can and do change over time. As we gain experience and learn more about the world our values may be strengthened, weakened, or replaced entirely. They are based on our choices – if we value happiness, then we choose to be happy, if we value family time, we may choose not to take a promotion that will require more travel. Whatever we value, we choose, we take actions that support that value. It is from our values that our choices are made and our actions are animated.
Vision – Vision is best defined, in this context, as “a picture of a future success”. John F Kennedy laid out a clear vision for the future when he proclaimed before congress “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” It engages the heart and spirit, and gives meaning to the effort required.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill
Vision is what we see in our minds eye. The clearer the image, the greater the probability of it becoming reality. Napoleon Hill the author of “Think and Grow Rich”, as well as others are attributed with repeating and demonstrating the truth behind the saying “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Walt Disney famously named his engineering and creative staff, “imagineers”. Believing that their greatness was in their imagination, or the ability to conceive and believe new possibilities within their mind. In other words, it was their vision of what could be that created the reality of what is Disney.
Mission – Mission is a clear statement of why you are doing what you are doing. The why usually incorporates the core values that motivate and animate our action towards a mental picture of some future success. It is usually, a brief statement that reflects the core values and communicates long term objectives.
Organizations and individuals may routinely formalize a mission in a written statement. A personal mission statement is a brief but powerful statement of why, what, and how a vision will be expressed. When written well it communicates to others what your values and vision are. It provides guidance for organizing resources and executing goals to make that vision a reality.
Stuff happens, priorities change, and new insights emerge that plans do not account for.
Planning is indispensable in the achieving your vision because it engages the heart and spirit, and gives meaning to the effort. Plans are useless because they are static, impersonal representations of what happened during planning. Stuff happens, priorities change, and new insights emerge that plans do not account for. Planning on the other hand, should be an ongoing evaluation of Values, Vision, and Mission. In this way we can perpetually align our planning with what we know of the world around us. Thereby, planning is a continuous process of improvement that will engage, inspire, and give meaning to all that we participate in.
Armed with these three clearly defined elements of planning, values, vision, and mission, you are prepared to begin moving forward with confidence to achieve your full potential.
How do you plan? What are your thoughts on Values, Vision, and Mission with regard to planning and success? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
The other day I read a Facebook post from someone who was expressing their horror and dismay at a product being sold by a large retailer. A product that seemed inappropriate for that retailer to be selling and marketing. The individual indicated that while they currently did not shop with this retailer, they would be sure not to until the retailers attitudes changed and this product was removed from their shelves and product line up.
Now it is not important who the retailer was or what the product was, or even so much what any of the other details of the post are. What intrigued me, were the comments that were made about this post and the individuals intention to "boycott" the retailer. There were several that chided the poster for their naiveté suggesting that if they boycott every organization that sells something they don't like they wouldn't be able to shop anywhere. While this may be true, it is a sad representation of what I see as the "Small Standards" or "lowest common denominator" mentality that holds most people back from achieving their full potential.
Why, when someone wants to make a stand for something good, are there throngs of people who will tell you why you can't or shouldn't? I don't have the answer. I just find it curious that when we aspire to greatness there are plenty of people who would rather tear us down, than lift us up.
Let me illustrate with a fictitious tale of a young lad who was found scurrying around the beach one morning during low-tide, picking up sand dollars and throwing them back into the ocean.
The young lad was approached by an elderly gentleman, who was out for a leisurely stroll along the beach. The elderly gentleman inquired of the lad what it was that he was doing.
The young lad responded cheerfully, to the elderly gentleman, that he was saving the sand dollars. To which the elderly gentleman, looking up and down the beach which was blanketed with sand dollars, kindly pointed out to the young man that he was wasting his time and that his efforts would not make a difference for so many sand dollars.
We’ve all been there, whether on the streets around Boise, ID – where I do most of my driving – or if you drive in Los Angeles or New York, London or Bangalore, driving in traffic is probably not the high point of your day. Yes, you may be able to catch up on the news, listen to talk radio, play your favorite music, or read an audio book – but for the most part you’d probably rather be doing something other than being stuck in traffic.
We drive in traffic and it’s a bad thing, we drive traffic to our doorstep and it’s a good thing, we monitor web traffic and try to increase it. Traffic is a part of our lives and as such, there are lessons that we can learn from traffic that will help us better navigate driving in it, driving it to us, and increasing it.
The 3 lessons are the principle of economy, the dangers of abrupt and frequent change, and diversity.
1. Principle of Economy
The principle of economy is about making choices. Everyone chooses those things that best serve their own interest. In other words, people take those actions which yield the greatest net expected benefit.
When driving, we obey the traffic laws and courtesies so we can get where we are going in the most efficient way possible. What value is there in cutting people off and driving on the shoulder of the roadway? Yes, it might allow us to move along quicker, but it would likely irritate other drivers, get us pulled over and cited, or worse yet, everyone else would also opt to do it and then the roads would become chaotic and there is no benefit there.
When you take an action be deliberate about it and understand the consequences, to ensure it yields the greatest net expected advantage.
2. Too Frequent Change
Traffic backups and bottle necks occur, but changing lanes all the time rarely helps you get ahead. You either have to choose an alternate route or stay in your lane... eventually you will get where you are going. Prioritize what is important and stick with it, until you are certain that making a change will yield the greatest net expected advantage.
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