How to Start a New Life – 10 Steps Stolen from Strategic Planning

When I started working in the strategy branch, being interested in self-development and leadership, I was surprised to learn how similar the steps are between strategic planning in government and steps one may take to improve his/her life. Many books on self-improvement captured strategies that sounded very similar to the ones I applied at work. Slowly but surely I started applying various techniques I do at work to my personal life, and so I decided to capture them here. So this is a different approach to starting a new chapter in your life – based on strategic planning principles and it also integrates various approaches used in business analysis. Without further due, please welcome the 10 steps on How to start a new life.

  1. Decide to start Any strategy starts by having someone decide to update existing strategy or start a new one. If it is your life, be that person that decides to finally control the life that belongs to you. After all, it’s you who would be living it.
  2. Identify the Scope and Your goals So you made a decision to change your life. Now what? First, you need to decide the scope of changes – what of your life would you like to change and what’s the scope – if you want to change your look, is the scope small and can be fixed by going shopping for a new wardrobe or taking online classes to improve your make up skills? Or is your scope a bit bigger and you want to hire a personal stylist who will completely change your look? Once you have the scope figured out, think what you want to achieve in the end. Let your dreams become your goals. The best number of goals is usually 3 or 5. Goals help you to have a direction.Goals-Quotes1
  3. Gap Analysis So once you decided on the scope, you need to do a gap analysis. Gap analysis is essentially the difference between the desired situation (where do you want to be) and current situation (how does it look like today?). Knowing the difference or gap between the two will guide you when you develop the plan to address the difference (so if the scope is small then probably it can be easily fixed with few steps. If the scope is big (for example, you want to have a career in acting but right now you work as an engineer, then you will need to take few steps like taking acting classes, working for free, networking with other actors and producers and so on).
  4. Identify and address your barriers (Risk management) So once you’ve done your gap analysis, you need to realistically look at the situation and be honest with yourself. What’s holding you back? What do you think your barriers are? Sometimes what you perceive to be barriers are the limitations that are in your head (certain principles like one cannot be in a relationship unless you have a career – and that keeps you from meeting new people). Maybe it’s an interpersonal barrier – let’s say lack of confidence or certain skills. It’s important to identify them so that you address them (and this is called risk management). You can also identify the barriers you’ll think you’ll have, and come up with a plan to tackle them. This will make you feel good and will help you mentally prepare for the challenge.5af935e53590e120e5822400f0ce7e4e.jpg
  5. Tools and Enablers This is where research comes in. Look around, look online, ask others – what knowledge, skills or tools can help you? We also call them enablers because they enable you do things (and their absence makes it harder to achieve your goals). For example, having internet access enables you to access online courses on the subject you want to develop (e.g. if you want to be proficient in Spanish, internet will enable you to access learning materials and connect with Spanish-speaking people).
  6. Develop a plan: steps The easiest way to do it is to look at your gap analysis and ask yourself – what are the steps I can take to get from where I am to where I want to be? If it is a big gap you may want to approach in several phases. To make it even more strategic you can have a timeline and allocate certain time for each phase (e.g. if you want to completely change careers and become successful in something else, your timeline can be 5 years, with phase 1 being the first 2 years if it is how long it will take to complete a college/acting school). Make sure you write your plan both on paper (makes it real) and on computer (so you do not lose it or accidentally throw away).
  7. Motivation/inspiration Keep yourself in check and remember that since you are the owner of your strategic plan, it is probably your job to keep yourself motivated and inspired (unless you have a communication/organizational development team working for you). Surround yourself with things that inspire and motivate you like podcasts, books, follow the blogs/instagram accounts of people or groups that inspire you, develop a motivational poster and put it in the place that constantly reminds you of your goals.
  8. Do 3 small things on day 1 (quick wins) You should identify the three small things that you can do immediately (today or tomorrow) to kick-start your life. Think about it this way: the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll reach your goal. The things can be super easy but they will keep you committed. I will give you a cute example – so when I was 17 and in grade 11, one day I decided to change my life – and my goals at the time were to work on my appearance and success. I approached it in the following way: the next morning I didn’t sleep in like I always did but got up earlier, did a manicure (I associate pretty nails with beauty), turned on the songs that wake me up and did some gym exercises (to feel good) and bought a notebook where I started writing down my goals. I never felt so good and capable as I felt that day, because I proved to myself that I am committed and I am in control. Even with tiny things like that because that was something I never did before.
  9. Keep a record of your progress Another important part of a strategy is keeping a record of progress to see if it is moving forward or not. You wouldn’t know unless you sit down and write down a list of the steps you wanted to take, which ones you’ve actually took and what happened. Remember that failure always teaches you something new and it shows that you are moving because you discover the effectiveness of your tactic and whether you need to change your approach instead of doing the same thing a number of times and hoping for a different result
  10. Reflect  Since it is your strategic plan about your life, you are your own client and stakeholder, and there is nothing more important than being honest with yourself and reflecting whether you like this strategy or not, whether you like where it is going or whether it is the time to update your tactic or some of your goals. Maybe you no longer want to pursue a career of an actor but want to be a designer instead and you need to adjust your strategy. Never care about what the people will say if this is what holds you from adjusting your strategy, focus only on your own needs (unless people get hurt in the process). It is better to try and fail then do nothing and then regret if for the rest of your life.tumblr_l8opu2xLHa1qctnmyo1_500_large
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