Where are you in your 5 plan? Almost there? Halfway through? Not even started? It’s both natural and practical to look ahead and plan for what is going to happen in the future. After all, how are you going to know the steps you need to take to achieve your ambitions, if you’ve not even defined what these goals are? But to set a concrete plan in place, which categorically informs what you will do from now until the day you retire is unrealistic. More than that, it’s kind of pointless.
In the not so distant past, career paths were set. You chose a career, you joined a company, you stayed with that company, and you retired from that company with your pension. Skip forward to the present day and it’s clear that this has all changed. If I look at the freedom we now have in our professional lives, the ability and flexibility to change careers and start new businesses is incredible.
Starting out on a new professional venture 20, 30, even 40 years into your working life is no longer exceptional; indeed, you could argue that for a seasoned business leader it’s almost expected. However, these changes are making a fundamental difference in the way we approach our working lives. The job for life is a thing of the past. But, the opportunity for a more fulfilling and rewarding career path is greater than even.
So what does this have to do with 5 year plans?
Essentially, if your 5 year plan stops you from taking advantage of new career or business opportunities then there is something very wrong with the it. Ditching the plan altogether is, perhaps, a bit dramatic. But changing the approach you have to planning means you have the joint benefit of a structure to work towards your goals, as well as the flexibility to take advantage of new opportunities in the market.
How can you create a plan that balances structure and flexibility?
Here are some steps that can help you be prepared and agile in your planning:
Periodically review you plan against what you want to achieveThe questions you want to be asking yourself are: Is the plan still helping me to achieve my goals? Am I making progress against the steps in the plan? Will a change in approach make me more successful? Use these questions as a litmus test for your plan, to see if it is still on track.
Be receptive to new opportunitiesIt might not be in the plan, but could this new opportunity help you to get to where you want to go? Dismissing ideas as out of hand, without considering the pros and cons could mean you miss out.
Be open to changes in technologyNot only can technology help make day-to-day task easier to manage, it can also introduce whole new business opportunities. A year ago, Google glass was an amusing but geeky and impractical piece of equipment, but wearable are fast becoming the future. So if an idea floats into your inbox that looks entirely ridiculous, think twice before you ditch it, it could be the next big thing.
Have you considered your next steps yet? Have you created a plan with enough structure and flexibility to achieve your goals.
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