USA Wellness Café
Stress Management Take-Out Course:
The Basics of Career Planning

Written by Staff Writers of USA Wellness Café ™

The happiest people plan their jobs around their lives--not the other way around. Deciding how where you would enjoy living, the people you desire in your life, and the activities you find appealing helps formulate your ideal personal life.

If you can envision the lifestyle that you find appealing, you can devise a master plan to serve as your “roadmap” for getting you there. At every step, you can envision how to build your career goals around this picture.

Key Point

Most people do not plan their lives; they just allow life to happen. That’s why many people do not achieve their dreams.

It’s helps to write a career plan and personal life plan that fit you well. These two plans can integrate properly, if you invest time in writing them in detail. The two plans will need to support each other, versus clashing with each other. By looking ahead, you can make good choices.

If you feel frustrated about the quality of your life, your lifestyle, your job or your education, examine possible choices open to you. Use your imagination to picture many choices, not just a few. Your life will consist of the sum total of all the choices you make!

Find Power Through Decisions

You will need to make clear decisions to get things under control. You will need to stay very proactive--taking it upon yourself to make small, consistent changes.

Otherwise, you will be following the course of most people: Most of your decisions in life will be made for you--by default.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • You must create short-term goals to support long-term goals. No one ever reached long-term goals without daily, weekly and monthly actions to keep the ball rolling.
  • Take small steps and make them stick. Don’t try to change everything at once. You’ll only get discouraged and give up. Do something minor, make it work, and move forward.
  • You will spend the least amount of energy pursuing things you feel passionate about. It’s easier to work 10-hour days if you like what you do.
  • If you vary just a fraction from any goal, you may wind up off course. Always pay attention. Make sure you stay on track.

Let’s envision why it pays to carefully plan your life. Picture for a moment that you live in Maine. You want to fly to Los Angeles. If your plane’s flight pattern is off by a fraction, you might wind up in Washington state vs. California. A long journey needs a well-laid, monitored plan to ensure you’ll arrive at your desired destination.

Devise A Plan on Paper

Key Point

If your goal is to retire in Florida at 65, plan your life backwards around this goal. Don’t think you will automatically wind up anywhere in life without paddling your boat in that direction.

Although you might not follow the plan exactly, write it down. Most people spend less time planning their life’s journey than they do planning a dinner party. They just mull along and allow things to happen to them.

The best way to plan your career is to first write a plan for your life. You want to create the overall lifestyle you desire and make your career fit into that plan.

Create a life planning sheet on your computer, for example, with various columns that resemble various tracks you’ll need to consider. Make columns to enter information for planning your family, education, long-term goals, and desired travel over your lifetime, as possible categories.

Make the plan as detailed as possible so you can picture the end result very clearly for each goal. Write questions to remind you of what you haven’t figured out yet.

Obviously, you will need to integrate the needs of your spouse and your children along the way. However, keep your original plan in place so that all of your choices for the future can help to support your original plan.

Factor in Some Detours

Count on having detours along the way that you did not plan. You may lose your job, choose to serve in the military for a few years, or leave college due to a family illness. We all deal with these kinds of game changers. But, if you keep the basics of your plan in the forefront of your thinking, you can do these kinds of self-supportive measures:

  • You can be on the lookout for people to help you.
  • You can read and study the topics you find interesting.
  • You can study the lives of people around you--learning how to emulate what you find appealing.
  • You can continue to grow intellectually, spiritually and socially.

Navigate From Your Major Goals

You need to list your larger goals, so that you can figure out the small steps to support each one. List a college degree, special training or travel opportunities, for example. Put some small steps in place and begin to figure out how to divide them into even smaller steps that will ensure you’ll succeed.

For example, if you want to own a home improvement business, make a list of medium-size steps similar to these:

  1. Find three people willing to work with me.
  2. Approach a business coach to write a business plan.
  3. Find an investment group willing to invest in my dream.
  4. Locate a warehouse or large building to house the business.

Next, break each medium-size step into bite-size baby steps. In order to find three people willing to help you start the home improvement business, you might try these steps:

  1. Talk to someone at your local Chamber of Commerce.
  2. Talk to a realtor who might know of individuals who work at home remodeling by contract only. (Maybe these individuals are looking to increase their personal income.)
  3. Speak to the managers of several home improvement stores in your locale. Ask them to suggest possible candidates to join you in business.

You’ll need to interview a lot of people and ask detailed questions. After all, if someone is a great hands-on expert at remodeling -- along with having excellent credit and ownership in a nice commercial building -- this is a serious candidate to consider as co-owner of your business. You want to launch your business with like-minded people you can respect.

Designate Timelines and Deadlines

Key Point

Keep this in mind: The clock is a good thing. The calendar is a good thing. If we didn’t have them, we all would drift too much. Time holds us accountable whether we pay attention or not!

Create a career plan that will unfold within a specific time frame. Let’s say that within 18 months, you want to have your new business open to the public. Staying on track to make things happen will consist largely of holding your own feet to the fire.

Driving yourself with focus applies to any career as well. If you’re a paramedic who wants to become a physician’s assistant or a doctor who wants to retire and teach at the local medical college part-time, you have to envision the steps.

You have to contact people who will open doors for you. You have to ask the right questions. And, you have to stick to your time frames.

Self-discipline has no substitute. You can’t rent it or borrow it. It comes from within, of course. Motivate yourself by using positive self-talk to stay determined. Tell yourself, “I want to work hard for a huge pay raise because I want to send my kids to an Ivy League college,” for example. Know why you’re striving hard and remind yourself of this constantly.

Focus Your Personal Energy

It’s amazing how staying focused, determined, and even bull-headed in the face of negativity is often the key to success. For example, if you’re a young nurse with a double major in nursing and business, you might decide you want to become a hospital administrator some day.

Everyone around may tell you that you’re not likely to achieve this. “After all,” they may remind you, “you’ve got three young children at home.”

If you want it badly enough, however, you’ll find a way to lessen your stress to ensure you climb the career ladder. For example, you might hire more help at home and move closer to work to save commute time. You could, for example, ask your sister-in-law to live with you during her college years. This arrangement will ensure your kids have supervision when they get off the school bus before you get home from work.

The goals you keep in the forefront of your mind will determine what actions you take throughout the years. For instance, while some of your co-workers take a vacation, you might decide to attend a networking seminar primarily attended by national hospital leaders. This networking opportunity might yield some great contacts for you during the coming years.

Here are some reminders on reaching career goals:

  • It takes the same amount of energy to tackle a dream as it does to stay stuck.
  • If you believe in a dream with unshakeable passion, others will start helping you.
  • A clearly written plan makes the progressive steps go much faster.

None of us would think of building a new house or assembling complicated equipment without a plan. Our lives, of course, are infinitely more complicated than a house or a mechanical device. That’s why we need to take planning seriously.

By having a career plan that will complement your personal life plan, you’ll be far ahead of the game. While others flounder, you’ll see most of your dreams come to pass.