Happy New Year!
A new year can bring an optimistic view of new horizons and possibilities. We could all use a dose of optimism today. The last three years have been down right exhausting. A worldwide pandemic and all of the political, economic and social disruption it brought has many still feeling unsettled. A new year is a great time to make new plans to get on the right track.
While many are talking about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions, let me offer another perspective. Often a more effective planning experience in our lives is all we need. Planning can take on many forms. Traditional financial planning, retirement planning, investment planning, estate planning, college planning, long term care planning or even simply career or life planning are just a few important planning disciplines.
Three Steps to Effective Planning
At McKell Partners, we believe the fundamental three steps to an effective planning process are Goals, Risks and Strategies. We follow this pattern with our clients each day. Our approach is simple, yet comprehensive in its design.
First, we believe in understanding you! What are your objectives, goals, dreams or rather, what do you want? Second, we then seek to identify and quantify the economic risks you face, meaning what are the threats that might keep you from your objectives? Third, we implement financial strategies to help reach your objectives. We then stay close through the years because we know life changes.
These steps can be adapted to our personal lives as well. We all have goals and dreams. We all face various risks and threats. And, we all are searching for what to do (strategies) to navigate a complex world.
Family Home Evening
Let me tell you a story.
I learned at a young age to be a goal cultivator and to have meaningful life plans. My family had a tradition of holding something every Monday night called Family Home Evening. This is a common practice for those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This tradition persisted throughout my growing up years. We are now empty nesters, but Susan and I carried on the practice with our young family and it has paid huge dividends.
In short, Monday evening was a time set aside for family. It was a special time for spiritual discussions, family togetherness and planning followed by a fun activity or game. It always concluded with a family prayer and then refreshments…the best part!
Each January Dad championed a special lesson on Goal Setting. We would set goals by writing things down we wanted to accomplish that year. My dad was a very optimistic, “you can do it” kind of person. He believed in personal responsibility and self-reliance. His belief in the capacity of the human spirit was infectious. My Dad passed in 2021. How grateful I am for his leadership in my life.
Your Goals in a Bank Vault!
Dad told us that our goals were so important that he would take them down to the bank and put them in the vault. Dad worked in the banking industry as a high level corporate manager. As kids, we went to the bank and saw the big vault; it was captivating.
At the end of the year for Family Home Evening, Dad retrieved the goals from the vault giving us a chance to evaluate our progress. Looking back, the lessons I learned from this experience have carried over to successful habits my entire life.
Consider for yourself,
- When you think about 2023, what are some areas of life that need your attention?
- What changes would you like to see occur?
- If you traveled ahead many years and then looked back, what positive memories would you like to remember?
The answers to these questions might uncover specific planning needs from your financial, social, emotional or spiritual life. Additionally, they will often reveal what matters most to you. I have found that true happiness and peace come when we align what matters most with our daily habits, routines and associations.
Here is where effective planning can play a role. Planning, rather than goals setting, denotes a series of actions. Formulating a plan requires us to engage more seriously in a series of steps to reach our destination. We don’t just set end points, but chart a strategic course to a desired end.
We might visualize potential obstacles or threats we need to address and even build-in contingencies or alternate routes. Important resources are identified and sourced. Maybe we need other professionals or practitioners to help us along the way. Accountability can be a helpful component of our plans when the road gets rough.
As you build your plans this year, consider these five secrets. I call them S.M.A.R.T. ingredients. I’ve described them as secrets, not because they are private, but because most fail to include these basics into their life planning. Our experience at McKell Partners has highlighted the need to have S.M.A.R.T. conversations with those we serve.
Consider the following:
First, be Specific in your planning. Saying you want to lose weight, save more money, get out of debt or find a new job is a good start, but you must be specific in your planning. Often, the more granular you are, the better
Second, your planning must be Measurable. How are you going to chart an effective course if you cannot measure your progress? Great teams keep score! Make sure your targets are stated in such a way that they can be measured. Including quantitative key indicators, as opposed to only qualitative language, is essential as well.
Third, your objectives must incorporate the provision of Accountability. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, but if we are accountable to someone else, especially someone we hold in high esteem, we may think twice about throwing in the towel. Here is where a coach or advisor can pay real dividends.
Fourth, your goals must be Realistic. Sometimes we set our sights so high that we can fail before we get started. Therefore, our plans must be realistic. For example, retiring early when we are frankly way behind in our savings goals might not be workable. In this regard, be honest with yourself about your objectives. This virtue is essential to good planning.
Fifth, your plans must be Timely. Great plans have dates, deadlines or specific time frames or intervals attached to them. This is essential to success and the shorter you can break down your targets the better. Longer time frames can be frustrating causing you to lose motivation, so shorten up the perceived time horizon or break down the goals into smaller steps.
Once written, pause and ask yourself, “Are my plans S.M.A.R.T?” Are these five important elements laced through-out your plans? If not, go back and rework them until they are reflective of these attributes. You will be glad you did!
Make 2023 a year to remember! I love this inspiring quote by Theodore Roosevelt,
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat."
Effective planning is a key element of success. It is living a life on purpose. It is focusing on what matter most. As you are more intentional in life, you will have a more credible claim on inner peace.
Enjoy the journey.