How You Can Close Your Personal Success Gap


“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

So goes the familiar adage that usually starts every company planning session you’ve ever attended.

Face it. This is a planning session. The good news, however, is that it’s not about some bland organization. It’s about something you’ll find much more exciting.

It’s about you.

Whether you’re just beginning your career, full-steam in the middle of your corporate climb or on the cusp of (or even into) retirement, you’ll find this template useful and satisfying.

It’s useful because it’s easy to follow. It’s satisfying because it works.

Before you can begin, however, you need to know where you’re going. For some, the ultimate objective is clear and obvious. If this is you, you can skip right to the section titled “Closing Your Personal Success Gap.”

If, at this point in your life, you’re not quite sure where you’re headed, relax. Most people, whether they know it or not, are at this same juncture. You’ll just need to spend some time preparing for your personal strategic planning workout. Call it “pre-planning.”

Everything you do, every action you take, every decision you make, all fall within boundaries you embraced years ago. You’re probably not even aware of them. Would you like to know what yours are? There’s a simple game you can play by yourself that will help you flesh this out.

Once you’re familiar with the shoulders that define the road of your life, you’ll want to discover the reason why you’re on that road in the first place. You might call this “the meaning of your life.” Everyone wants to know what this is. Believe it or not, it only takes six questions to find out. Answering these questions honestly will reveal the purpose of your life.

Finally, you’re now ready to determine where exactly you wish to go with your life. It can be anywhere. There are no right or wrong answers (beyond the obvious), and everyone is free to choose their own destination. If you need help organizing your thoughts on this, consider a second half-dozen questions. This list of questions will guide you in crafting the picture of your future destination.

Closing Your Personal Success Gap

You know where you want to go, who you want to be and what you want to do.

You also know you’re not there yet.

The difference between today and achieving tomorrow’s goals represents your “personal success gap.”

Your personal success gap may be as small as a single step or as large as a wide chasm. If it’s small, you’re either lucky because you’re almost there or your goal isn’t big enough. Most people’s goals are too modest. Double check to make sure your goals can be classified as “something big.”

Big Goals imply wide chasms. If your personal success gap is a wide chasm, congratulations! You have chosen your goal wisely.

There. That was easy, wasn’t it?

Now comes the harder part: how do you close that gap?

The easiest way to do this is to think backwards. Conceptually, here’s how this works:

  1. State your Big Goal.
  2. Realize where you stand today in relationship to that Big Goal. (This identifies your Personal Success Gap.)
  3. Starting with your Big Goal, work backwards. What will you need to do immediately before attaining your Big Goal that will directly lead you to achieve that Big Goal? You may call this “Interim Goal #n.”
  4. What will you need to do immediately before attaining your Interim Goal #n that will directly lead you to achieve that Interim Goal #n? Call this “Interim Goal #n-1.”
  5. Repeat the preceding step until the Interim Goal you identify represents the next action you will take from where you sit today (i.e., counting down from Interim Goal #n, Interim Goal #n-1, Interim Goal #n-2… all the way until you reach Interim Goal #1).
  6. Finally, write down all your Interim Goals in chronological order beginning with Interim Goal #1 and set reasonable targets dates to complete them by placing them in the following categories: Interim Goals be completed in the next 12 months; in the next year; in the next five years; within ten years; and beyond ten years.
  7. Start your journey towards your Big Goal by completing Interim Goal #1.

Some people prefer operational definitions rather than theoretical formulae. Here’s a real-life (albeit make-believe) example of how to do this:

  1. Your Big Goal is to win a major Oscar for a hit movie.
  2. To win a major Oscar for a hit movie, you’ll either have to be an actor, director or screenwriter (to name a few). You pick screenwriter.
  3. To be a movie screenwriter, you’ll have to be an established writer.
  4. To be an established writer, you’ll have to show you can write popular books of fiction.
  5. To write popular books of fiction, you’ll have your short stories published.
  6.  To have your short stories published, you must demonstrate you can write with appeal.
  7. To demonstrate you can write with appeal, it helps if you write regularly for a mass audience.
  8. To write regularly for a mass audience, you’ll need to be a contributor to a major periodical.
  9. To be a contributor to a major periodical, you must first be a contributor to a smaller periodical.
  10. To be a contributor to a smaller periodical, you must show others have accepted your writing.
  11. To show others have accepted your writing, newspapers will have to have published your op-ed.
  12. To have a newspaper publish your op-ed, it must first publish your letter-to-the-editor.
  13. To convince a paper to publish you letter-to-the-editor, you have to write well.
  14. To write well, you need to write consistently.
  15. To write consistently, you must post regularly to a blog.

So, attaining your Big Goal of winning a major Oscar begins with you creating a blog.

You get the idea. Start with the Big Goal and work backwards. Each Interim Goal should be “bite-size” compared to its immediate predecessor. For clarity, you can list each Interim Goal in chronological order indicating which goals need to be attained in the next 12 months, the next five years, within ten years, and beyond ten years.

If you have several Big Goals, then you’ll need to perform this same exercise for each one of them.

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