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January 10, 2023

What's Your Life Plan? Balancing Dreams and Reality – #MTtalk Roundup

Sarah Harvey


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If I am going to spend valuable time working at something, I need to know that my efforts will pay off. So I find it motivational to have a plan that balances my dreams and reality; it keeps me going when the going gets tough.

I've always been someone who likes to know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. People have called me ambitious and driven but I don't really see it like that. I just don't like wasting my efforts on the wrong things.

Pay-offs could be financial (such as a pay rise or winning a contract), intrinsic (the personal satisfaction of a job well done), practical (enjoying greater work-life balance), or external (public recognition or improved reputation).

Recognizing the specific factors that motivate you could provide useful insight into how you can best balance your dreams and reality, to achieve your own life plan.

By aligning your personal goals and priorities with your life plan, you'll be making sure your dreams are backed up with some tangible actions.

After all, there's little point dreaming about becoming a marathon runner if the reality is you don't prioritize your weekly training plan. Dream – to become a super-fit marathon runner. Reality – binge-watching Netflix with a giant tub of popcorn takes priority every time!

Dreams Don't Come True on Their Own

Being absolutely clear about what your life plan is will provide a solid start. It will probably need to evolve over time and may need to flex as you progress through your career and deal with life's various challenges.

And let's remember that we don't always know precisely what our life plan is, anyway. We may instead have an overall dream rather than a specific plan. Or to put it another way, we may have a vision we're aiming toward rather than a well-defined set of goals.

"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change the world."

Joel A. Barker

Creating the Life of Your Dreams

Of course, it can be helpful to turn your vision into a set of goals. This will ensure that you base your dreams firmly in reality. And it will give you clarity on the practical steps you can take to create that life of your dreams.

Setting yourself stretching but achievable goals can help you to:

  • Be clear about what you need to do – the changes to make and actions to take to ensure that you stay on track.
  • Prioritize day-to-day or weekly activities by focusing on the most important things.
  • Determine what support you need from others to help you put your plan into action.
  • Assess your options and choices to help you make better decisions as time progresses.
  • Measure and celebrate your achievements – it's very motivational to see how far you've come.
  • Increase your confidence in yourself and build your self-belief – you can do this!

But wait. Highly defined and time-bound goals just don't float everyone's boat. You may well feel that, rather than goals motivating you to achieve your dreams, they take all the fun and spontaneity out of them. Then suddenly there's just a bit too much reality and not quite enough dreaming big going on! I can certainly relate, and I can feel that all-important motivation slipping away!

What's important is to focus on what you want to achieve, and then to figure out how to get emotionally connected to it – in a way that financially, intrinsically, practically, or externally keeps you motivated until that dream life plan becomes your reality.

What's Your Life Plan? Balancing Dreams and Reality

During Friday’s #MTtalk Twitter chat we discussed creating a life and career plan and how to balance dreams and reality. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:

Q1. Do you need to plan everything in your life?

@_GT_Coaching This answer may be different for everyone, but I think that there is some benefit in being spontaneous, leading to actions that may or may not be linked to a previously generated purpose.

@MikeB_MT I don't need to plan everything in my life down to the last detail, but I try to have an outline and guideposts to keep me moving forward. I could be more planful. The thing about a plan is that you need to follow through!

Q2. Has planning your life or career ever felt like a waste of time? Why/why not?

@virtudeskcom Never. You need to plan to set your steps in the right direction and for you to achieve what you really want in life.

@J_Stephens_CPA Setting the annual personal goals for work is seen as a drudgery by many. But if you don't make a plan, you don't know when you have succeeded.

Q3. Complete the sentence: If you don't have a life plan ___________.

@llake A life plan isn't compulsory. In fact, I consider it unnecessary but if you have one be advised that plans change.

@Dwyka_Consult If you don't have a life plan, how on earth do you know what to do, where to focus, what you should concentrate on?

Q4. How can planning your future help you to achieve your goals?

@leehengyuen Goal = strategic, action plan = tactical, task = operational

@J_Stephens_CPA Planning allows you to choose wisely when faced with decisions.

Q5. What should you consider before making a "New Year's resolution"/setting a goal?

@SarahH_MT Research suggests New Year's Resolutions generally fail within one month! Working with a buddy, coach or accountability partner can help. Also goals are not motivational for all of us – it's key to find what motivates you and plan around that.

@Midgie_MT Consider your "why," your reason that you want to achieve this goal and the difference it will make to your life. This helps with the motivation to take the necessary actions.

Q6. Why have you gone off track from your plan in the past?

@Yolande_MT Lack of accountability and not being honest with myself have played a role. Allowing a short-term "want" to override a long-term goal.

@_GT_Coaching I have personally gone off track at times due to a lack of awareness in the moment and because my distractions have been stronger than my intentions.

Q7. How will you help yourself get back on track when life throws you a curve ball?

@harrisonia To get back on track when life throws me a curve ball, I will: acknowledge what happened; pause to process; consider getting fresh air/different environment; and re-strategize.

@MikeB_MT Sometimes a strategic pause helps. Renew. Refocus. Then go back to your plan. Keep what makes sense. Revise what needs to change. Delete what is no longer essential. And go forward.

@Dwyka_Consult Start again and start from where you are – don't try and start from where you should have/could have/would have been.

Q8. How would you know if your "envisioned dream" should be re-evaluated?

@ZalaB_MT When you've created your plan + goals + actions + timeline, you're constantly checking in. What's the progress, what's working and what's not, and align from there. I've never ever had a plan go from A to B entirely how I planned it. Life happens and there's so much in between.

@SoniaH_MT My "envisioned dream" should be re-evaluated when I've experienced multiple failures despite creating a seemingly logical plan.

Q9. How will you help your team create a successful plan together?

@SarahH_MT I love the process of planning with teams! I like to get everyone's views, suggestions, challenges etc involved. Collaborating on the plan results in everyone feeling more invested, involved, supported, and committed to achieving it.

@ZalaB_MT I think the important lesson here is to create a plan and set goals that lead to creating a common vision/future. Don't let leaders waltz in there and set goals that are totally out of touch and synch with the team. It will fail.

Q10. What planning tools, techniques and visual aids would you recommend?

@leehengyuen I prefer tools that are visual, easy for updating and tracking, colorful, and allow quick responses.

@Midgie_MT I like having the end goal clearly posted in sight, and then... an action plan document that is easily accessible outlining the steps to take. Plus, I have a sign that says, "Does it help or hinder?" to remind myself to consider whether the next thing I am about to do "helps me" or "hinders me" toward the goal achievement. It's that pause that helps me to keep focused rather than get distracted.

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.

Coming Up in Our Next #MTtalk on January 20

It's exciting to talk about a new year, new plans, and setting our sights on new goals. However, if you're still dealing with past events, you can't ignore the impact they might have on you. Or that other people think you should be "over it" by now. In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know how you feel if someone says, "Surely you/they should be over that?"

Useful Resources for Developing Your Life Plan

If you found the questions and responses interesting, and would like to delve into Mind Tools resources that could help you to develop your own Life Plan, we recommend the following reading list. (Please note that you may need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.)

The Power of Good Habits

What Is Legacy Thinking?

How to Be More Organized

Read Smarter!

8 Common Goal-Setting Mistakes

Managing Your Career


The Wheel of Life

Five Golden Rules for Setting Great New Year Career Goals Infographic

8 Rules for Setting New Year Resolutions Video

Personal Goal Setting

Developing a Career Strategy

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