Too many people whine about not having the life they want. The main reason people fall short of their own expectations is the same reason most companies fail to achieve their objectives: poor planning and execution. In fact, I am amazed at how many successful executives create strategy for their business, leaving their life to chance. Often it's more comfortable (note I didn't say easier) to complain and blame outside factors for lack of accomplishment or unhappiness than to take time to work on life rather than in it.
I choose otherwise. A close entrepreneur friend, J, and I are taking our annual four days away to determine our futures and hold each other accountable. Here are the tips that will assure us of success.
1. Plan a Preferred Future
As Lewis Carroll said: If you don't know where you are going, then any road will get you there. Both J and I are close to 50, so our 60th birthdays are the milestone for this journey. Twelve years is plenty of time to make course corrections and absorb any external factors thrown at us. Our planning will be specific and measurable. We'll take time to examine and discuss the details of every aspect of our lives, personal and professional, to achieve integrated success and happiness.
2. Be Pragmatic
Neither of us will be playing for the NBA at our age (or my height). The future has to reflect what is physically possible with available resources and limitations. Pragmatism isn't in itself restrictive, however; J and I will harness our creativity to design aspirational futures that exploit every opportunity and asset we have. We'll also create filters to keep us from wasting time and energy on what's unachievable or irrelevant.
3. Decide the Who, Not the What
We're defining who we want to be at 60, not what we want to be doing. The who centers on passion, core competencies, and core satisfaction, such as material requirements. If I know who I truly want to be, I can detail what to do, own, resources I need, etc. I can also determine what not to do, own, etc., focusing time and resources where required.
4. Be Honest
J and I will challenge each other constantly to get to the truth of who we are and who we wish to be. There will be no quiet politeness on this trip (not that I'm capable of it). I can't let J believe his own stories and rationalizations, causing misdirection and distraction. Warning: Allowing this dialogue requires intimate knowledge of each other and great trust. Pick your accountability partners wisely.
5. Consider the Tools Around You, Old and New
Every resource is important. On my old list is Napoleon Hill, who nearly 100 years ago connected creative visualization to success. And I will also consider new resources like crowdsourcing. Although I'm a natural skeptic for overhyped Internet trends, my friend and talented designer Elena Kriegner inspired me with her KickStarter campaign. It's simple, interesting, and elegant (like her jewelry), which is why it's gaining traction, unlike many others. In this planning exercise, no resources, new or old, are off the table to achieve my desired future.
6. Ignore the Naysayers
I live for constructive criticism. But outside perspective that is baseless conjecture or stems from emotional baggage (think dissatisfied family or friends) is destructive for achievers. Put these people in a box where they can't distract you from your ambitions. Find people who get it, and put them in your corner. Engage them in your preferred future, and help them achieve theirs.
7. Don't Settle for Mediocrity
Although being the next Steve Jobs or U.S. President is likely off our agenda (as it should be), J and I both want to be pushed to the limits of our potential. Too many people settle for what is easy rather than engage their energy and creativity to create something different and meaningful. Then they wonder why their work has no significance. I choose to pursue the Awesome Experience.
People who take a reactive approach to growth and development will suffer the same fate as companies, managers, and employees who let the markets, technology, and competitors determine their destiny. The game of life rewards aggressive players who leverage their energy, smarts (note that I didn't say intelligence), and creativity to determine and obtain the life that truly makes them happy. As Jim Collins points out in Great by Choice, good and bad luck comes to all; it's how you plan and execute that determines your return on luck.
Note: If you're interested in learning more about this process, contact me. I can share more specifics and tools from my small-group facilitations on preferred futuring. Perhaps you are ready to live your preferred future. Don't hope for it; determine, plan, and execute.