Last year I changed my business planning process and somehow, in the process, I changed my life. I changed my life because I finally figured out two important lessons.
1. Goals are helpful, but vision is everything.
2. Business planning can’t happen in a vacuum.
Vision Over Goals
It’s not uncommon to start your career with a clear goal, whether that’s growth or income. Having that kind of goal, however is very different from having a vision of the business and life that you want to live. I’d suggest you need both.
If growth is the only goal, you can take any one of a multitude of paths to get there. And as long as the top line is growing, you’re on track. The challenge for many, however, is that that path doesn’t always lead to the life they wanted to live.
The one way I’ve found to ensure that I’m setting goals that lead both to growth and fulfillment is to get clear on my vision. A vision is about how you want to achieve your goals.
Here’s the reality:
• You can reach a goal and remain wildly unfulfilled. When you realize a vision, it reflects what is most important.
• You can reach a goal and feel exhausted (or bored) by the process. When you realize a vision you are energized and inspired.
• You can reach a goal by applying any number of tactics and strategies. When you realize a vision, it’s the result of intentional action.
It is, of course, possible to grow a successful business without a vision, if size is the primary metric you use to measure success. Vision is, in fact, optional. However, if you want to build a business that meets the dual criteria of wildly successful and profoundly fulfilling, then a vision is no longer an option.
Using Vision to Filter Decisions
Personal vision is both a filter and a target. It describes how you see your work and life unfolding. As such it provides you with an important filter for decision making. For example, if your vision is to work from home or from anywhere in the world, that will act as a good filter when a prospective client tells you they won’t meet virtually.
How does vision apply to your business plan? When you are doing your business planning this year, start with that vision which might include:
- The kind of clients with whom you want to work
- The kind of work you want to do for those clients
- The role you want to play on the team
- The environment in which you want to work
- The people with whom you want to work
- The culture you want to create
- The amount of time you want to spend doing other things (and what they are)
By all means, set goals, just use your vision as a filter to decide if they are the right goals.
Get Out of the Vacuum
The second big lesson for me was about the appropriate scope of planning. This I picked up through the work of Michael Hyatt, of whom I’m a big fan. In working through his planning process I was forced (in a good way) to think about goals that included:
It was a fascinating process because I found myself looking at the connections between these areas and prioritizing differently. I had to ask myself the hard questions and face up to some limiting beliefs. Just as importantly, I came out the other side with real, clear and tangible goals in almost every one of those areas and life is better for it. My business plan simply had a broader lens.
There’s some cross-over here with the work of Jim Loehr, the author of The Power of Full Engagement. His work (which began with elite athletes) focuses on how we manage our energy to achieve our goals. He talks about the need to ‘stress’ ourselves in different areas of our lives.
That is, most of us pour all of our energy into one part of our lives (such as our work) leaving the other parts of our lives wanting. But, he says, we don’t regain real balance by working less. Rather, it’s about setting equally big goals in all areas of our lives. That stress creates a balance that allows you to achieve more in every part of your life.
For example, rather than committing to exercise, you might commit to running your first 10k. Rather than planting yourself in front of the television with your spouse in the name of ‘quality time’ you structure a real date night. Rather than being in the same room on your computer while the kids are playing, you commit to learning a new skill together. You get the picture; in all cases you are pushing yourself outside the comfort zone.
Stretching yourself in multiple areas of your life will have a positive impact on your business and growth.
What does this mean to your business planning process? When you sit down to create your plan for next year, ensure you have a clear vision to filter your goals and include goals in all important areas of your life. Vision first; goals second.
Thanks for stopping by,