The Power of Planning

By: Ken Keis

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower, US General and President (1890 -1969)

The Power of Planning

Planning: a method of accomplishing an objective

Many of us will admit that the most important event -- our life -- gets the least amount of planning.

Just last week, our family was talking about our wish to vacation in Disneyland. When we went to book our timeshare, alas, nothing was available. It was obvious that others had planned farther ahead and, as a result, we now must postpone our trip or choose another option.

Isnít life like that!? We think about the planning part but often leave it too late -- or we donít plan at all and, before we know it, we are unprepared or unable to fully achieve our objective.

Planning -- on a personal, professional, business, or organizational level -- is developed from purpose, vision, mission, and values, concepts we have discussed in previous Living on Purpose ezines.

So why bother with planning? And why are so few people really effective planners? The next quote can start us on the path to understanding.

"Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true."
-Lester R. Bittel, The Nine Master Keys of Management

Lester is correct in his premise -- that planning and the plans that come out of this process are the wheels and strategies that bring life to your dreams and vision. These are the action steps that put your philosophical position into motion. But more important, they are intentional thoughts and actions steps, not accidental events on the way to your goal.

Sports and athletics are a great metaphor for successful planning models and strategies. When an athlete has a goal or objective to win a specific event, such as in the Olympics, the planning to win goes into motion immediately. Setting the goal or establishing the vision is not enough; the athlete must have a plan to get there. The coaching team reviews the individualís strengths and weaknesses and compares them to the competition. The objective is winning a medal, but the planning is critical to helping the person achieve the goal.

In 1982 (I know that is long time ago, but stay with me), I was selected to compete in a National 4-H Judging competition. For me, attending was not enough of a challenge. Winning the competition was my goal. I self-assessed my capabilities, based on each of the two-part, five-section judging contests. To win meant I had to be above average in every competition.

I called the best experts in each category and explained my situation and my goal. I asked if they would be willing to set up live practice sessions for me and coach me to improve my skills. I also asked each expert to share his or her top tips for success.

Four weeks later, I walked into the competition with new-found confidence, not because I was great, but because I had planned and prepared for my success. Even though victory was not guaranteed -- after all, I was competing with the best from all over the country -- I knew my preparation and planning had paid off when my name was called as the overall top competitor. Without a doubt whatsoever, my success was based on my level of planning and preparation.

At what level are you in your planning in all areas of your life? In the areas of health, family, wealth, personal, professional, spiritual, and social, do have your path laid out?

If planning is so important, why donít we do it? My experience and other research outline a few primary reasons why we never get to our life planning.

1. The tyranny of the urgent wins our attention and time.
2. The lack of discipline/commitment sabotages the planning process.
3. A lack of understanding of the critical importance of planning for success diminishes its importance.
4. The planning process is unfamiliar or appears overwhelming so people abandon the process before they start.
5. Lack of clear purpose, vision, values, or focus causes even the best-laid plans to fail before they begin.
6. Lack of belief, low self-worth, or fear of success/failure undermine the process.

There are certainly other reasons. What are yours?

When Yale University researched goal setting in the Ď70s, it was discovered that only 3 percent of the population had actual written goals and/or plans. This is an area where most of us, me included, can improve.

There is much more to the planning process, but rather than overpower you with additional steps, letís start with what we have so far.

First you must be clear about your beliefs, purpose, vision, values, goals, and focus. If you do not have these items clarified, set up a plan to do the necessary clarification. One of my colleagues, Dr. Stephen Haines, calls this a Plan-to-Plan session -- in other words, what you have to get in place before you can travel downstream with the planning process.

My purpose is to help others find their purpose. After 15 years of fine-tuning and focusing my purpose, I know a personís clarity of purpose is foundational to his or her level of success and impact. Show me a person with no stated/clear purpose, values, vision, or mission and -- 99 times out of a 100 -- Iíll show you someone who is limited in personal and global impact.

Start with the planning actions steps below.

This Week's Action Steps

The Power of Planning

1. First acknowledge that plans and planning are critical and that they highly influence your level of success.
2. Be clear about your beliefs, purpose, values, vision, and mission before you seriously undertake your life-planning session. This is your Plan-to-Plan session. If needed, utilize the following assessments and resources to help you in the clarity process.
3. Write down all the areas in your life where you could use a plan or where you could benefit from planning, including but not limited to: health and wellness, financial, family, spiritual, personal, and professional.
4. Determine where you would like to be (your goal or objective) in each of the important areas in your life. That is called establishing your desired future state or condition.
5. Establish where you are now in each of those areas; this is called your current state.
6. Now, with both future and current state lists, benchmark the gaps, if any, in each area. Be as clear and specific as possible about what the gaps are. Rather than stating "I am short of savings," document the exact amount of money you are short.
7. Armed with your gap analysis and current and future states, allot a separate sheet for each item. Do this when you can apply focus and undivided attention to this activity. Now brainstorm, in no particular order, all the activities and steps you think you will need to implement to close the gaps. Please: no self-judgments or putdowns -- just do it.
8. Once you have completed your brainstorming session, take each sheet of ideas and start to formulate the activities into specific action steps. Over time, do this for each important area of your life. Donít overwhelm yourself with too many activities.
9. Create a very easy and simple summary and tracking sheet that you can review on a regular basis.
10. Track your progress. If something is not getting done, re-evaluate whether it is really important to you. Get going on it or get it off the list.
11. Finally, celebrate your wins no matter how minor or seemly insignificant. As actor Bill Murray so beautifully showed us in the movie Dr. Bob, success is the accumulation of many baby steps.

Until next time, keep "Living On Purpose",

Ken Keis

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Ken Keis is an internationally known author, speaker, consultant, & President of CRG. Many professionals herald CRG as the # 1 global resource center for Personal/Professional Development. For information on CRG Resources, please visit

For information on Kenís Training and Speaking Programs, please visit

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