A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish: 9 Steps For Effective Planning (2021)

8 min read

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish” – and I couldn’t agree more.

The first step to making your dreams come true is creating a bulletproof plan. Without that, it’s going to be difficult to achieve anything. 

A huge part of my job as a life coach involves helping my clients create a plan for a fulfilling future.

That’s why I’m excited to present this list of nine steps for planning a path towards achieving your  goals. 

So, let’s dive in. 

A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish
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1. Find Your Life Mission

It’s true that a goal without a plan is just a wish, but a lot of people don’t even have a goal!

For a lot of people, the hardest step is deciding what they want to do with their life. Another key part of my job is to help clients discover this. In many cases, it’s one of our first exercises. 

I ask the questions that allow them to think about what they really want. Then, together we create a plan to build their dream life. 

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If you’re not sure what you want your life mission to be, here are some good questions to ask yourself.

  • What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What are your talents – and how can they help to make the world a better place?
  • What are you willing to eat turds for? In other words, for what mission are you willing to put up with the unpleasant parts?   

Have a think – and write down the answers to these questions in detail. That’s a great first task to get you on the right path.

If you’re not sure what your talents are, or what excites you, the best thing you can do is to try a lot of new things!

2. Write It Down

If a goal without a plan is just a wish, a plan that isn’t written down is just a dream.

There’s something about making your plan tangible that makes it serious. Now you know it’s real. 

So, write down your mission on paper and put it somewhere you’ll see it often. The more you read it, the better.  

On top of that, make efforts to tell other people what your mission is. This should help keep you accountable to your goals.

You’ll want to write your plan down too, and we’ll explore what that plan should consist of now…

3. Determine What It Takes To Achieve Your Goal

Turning your wishes into plans isn’t as difficult as you may think. 

Whatever your wishes are, there’s probably someone out there who has already managed to achieve them. At the very least, there’s someone who did something similar.

This is great, because it means you don’t have to work to reinvent the wheel.

Just copy the formula they used, work as hard as them, and you’ll be able to get the same results.

The great news is: most hyper-successful people eventually decide to give away all the information about how they got to the top. 

So, look for an inspiration who has written a book, a digital course, a blog on their website, or a YouTube channel showing you how to become as good as them. Maybe you’ll even find someone offering one-on-one coaching. 

Whatever medium they are offering, it’s most likely going to include a detailed step-by-step plan, which is proven to lead to success. There’s no need to second-guess yourself. The expert has done all the hard work for you.  

In some cases, it may cost a fair amount of money to access this help. But, it’s nearly always worth the investment. Essentially, you’re paying this money to save yourself from having to go through all the trial and error.

You’re paying for saved time – and saved frustration. That’s a useful investment, no matter what field you’re hoping to exceed in. 

4. Determine Who Can Help You 

For whatever reason, there seems to be some romanticism surrounding the idea of the ‘self-made’ success. A lot of people want to be the lone wolf who became a success without any assistance.

The problem is: you’re limiting yourself with this attitude.

Not only are you going to burn yourself out. You’re also going to do a half-assed job at the things you’re not good at.

A better strategy is to take a look at your plan, decide what parts you’re really good at and focus on excelling at those.

It’s not weak to give other parts of your mission to people with different skills to you. In fact, it’s intelligent.

So, take a look at your plan, think about your strengths and weaknesses, then see who you know (or who you need to know) that can do some tasks better than you. 

When you work as part of a team with the same dream, you can reach success far quicker. With a team, you’re free to focus on the things that you do best. 

5. Divide Your Big Goal Into Smaller Chunks

Your long-term goal may seem intimidating. That’s a sign you’re on the right path. If your goals don’t intimidate you, it’s possible you’re not aiming high enough.

The problem with an intimidating long-term goal is: it can seem so far away. This can sap your motivation to start your mission, or to keep going when the going gets tough. 

That’s why it’s crucial to divide your goals into more manageable chunks. In the business world, most successful individuals chop up their ambitions into short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. This is what most business plans look like. 

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It’s genuinely agreed that a short-term goal should take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months to achieve. A medium-term goal could take a couple of years, while a long-term goal is likely to take several years. 

However, to make your plan even more actionable, you may want to divide into micro-goals over the space of a day or a week.

A number of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world swear by daily goal-setting. It’s these daily steps that add up to incredible achievements.  

This quote by Mac Anderson says it all. 

“Dream big dreams, but never forget that realistic short-term goals are the keys to your success.” 

6. Use SMART Goals

You would struggle to find a success in the business world who doesn’t swear by SMART Goals. Most business plans include them. 

This is a form of writing down goals that helps you move forward quickly. More importantly, it helps you realise whether the goal is completed or not.

A Smart Goal is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. A goal without these traits isn’t going to be too useful. 

Whether you’re writing down your over-arching goal, or dividing it into smaller chunks, always make sure it hits all five of the SMART targets.  

The more detailed your plan, the better. 

7. Determine What You’re Not Going To Do!

This is incredibly important too.

Your life mission should be so important to you that you’re willing to sacrifice anything that doesn’t contribute to it (except when you’re taking time to recharge).

In most cases, your life mission will be so consuming – that you’ll need to determine what to stop doing in order to make it possible.

Do you want to become the world’s #1 children’s author and to start a charity for the homeless, while also becoming a black belt in judo?!

While that’s not necessarily impossible, you’ll usually be better off focusing on the mission that calls to your heart the most. Start making a plan for conquering your most important life goal first. Double your efforts for achieving that goal. Perhaps you’ll be able to focus on your secondary goal later on in life?

But perhaps you won’t! How does that make you feel? Would that be a problem? If so, that could be a sign you haven’t found your true calling yet. Remember, your life mission is supposed to be something you’re willing to eat turds for. That may mean going without things you really like.

8. Review Your Progress And Adjust

A goal without a plan is just a wish, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust that plan as time goes on.

In most cases, society is going to change, your feelings are going to change, the business world you’re looking to dominate is going to change.

If you don’t adapt with it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  

It’s recommended that you review your action plan several times per year to see if you’re still on the right track. 

As Confucius once said: “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

9. Stay Motivated And Hold Yourself Accountable

Any life mission worth achieving is going to be difficult. 

Even when broken down into small manageable chunks, your great success is going to feel like it’s so far away at times.

Even though you’ve trained your mind to ‘enjoy the process’ on most days, you’ll still probably want to give up occasionally. 

When you think like this, you need to remember your ‘why’. Why is this life mission so important to you? It’s worth writing this somewhere you’re going to read it often too. 

That’s another advantage you’ll find when you start to build a dream team to work on the same project. You serve to keep each other motivated and hold each other accountable. 

That’s a big role I play for my life coaching clients too. I help them set appropriate short-term goals with a plan, and check in to see if they’ve managed to meet them.  

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Any More Questions About Effectively Planning Your Goals?

Thanks for reading!

First off, I hope you understand the meaning of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote “A goal without a plan is just a wish” a bit better now.

More importantly, I hope you know how to apply this quote to your own life in order to achieve success in the things that matter most to you. 

If you’d like to ask a question about the ideas in this post or the “A goal without a plan is just a wish” quote, feel free to do so in the comments section below. 

Do you have a goal without a plan? Would you like to know more to get started turning it into reality? What’s on your mind? What are your plans for the future? Let me know!

I always like to read your comments – and I’ll do my best to leave my own comments in reply.

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