We all experience significant events in our lives---situations that cannot be avoided or ignored. They typically hit us hard and can change our perspective or alter the plans we had for our journey. Additionally, there are many, more obscure events in our daily lives, which can be also be quite impactful. However, often we risk ignoring them because of their subtlety and the frenetic pace of life most of us live. One such seemingly obscure event happened to me several years ago as I was traveling and catching up on some reading during a flight. I came across this quote by Jim Rohn, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much!” I must have read that quote two or three times. Something about it just caused me to pause. I’m not sure I would have taken time to reflect on that quote had I not been trapped in that plane. But I’m glad I was because that reflection time had a huge impact on how differently I would manage my future going forward.
Rohn’s quote made me recall a previous discussion I had several years prior with a senior leader in our organization about my desire to seek an MBA. Their quick and dismissive response was “You don’t need an MBA for your position.” I remember leaving their office feeling disappointed, deflated and somewhat embarrassed as I very much wanted their support and maybe some appreciation for wanting to take on the additional work and challenge. I was certain the knowledge and skills gained from an advanced degree would help close any professional gaps and allow me to continue to advance and provide a higher level of value for the company. After that experience, I pretty much put an MBA on the back burner. Recalling that event turned this “obscure” event of catching up with some reading into a major “AHA” moment for me.
Perhaps an MBA would not be that impactful for my current position but what about the next one? Had this leader not considered my potential for advancement in the organization? Were there not plans in place by leadership to help get me there? Were they just happy to keep me where I was because I was a “top performer” which helped them get results and reach their goals? In that moment, it became very clear to me that I had to stop assuming others had a plan for my future success and accept that I alone was responsible. That’s when I got serious and busy about designing my future—which included starting an MBA program at the “mature” age of 45.
Crafting your developmental plan is not an easy task. It takes a LOT of self-reflection, self-awareness, figuring out EXACTLY what your vision of success is and doing the hard work to lay the framework and execute upon it. Additionally, it should challenge you and have you take steps outside of your comfort zone. That is where real growth and development occurs! A final, and maybe the most important component, is setting up consistent time to monitor your progress or make adjustments to your vision or plan. Life happens and it with our idea of what is important or necessary. If you don’t set up regular intervals to reflect, review and readjust your plan, it often becomes obsolete and you lose momentum toward your vision. Consider scheduling a few hours every few months, or once a quarter for your personal “offsite”. Use that time to evaluate what you have accomplished, what you still need work on and what you will do going forward. Invest the time to design your own life plan, you know what happens when you leave it up to someone else…not much!