What’s Your Plan?

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.  Dwight Eisenhower


Each year at this time I find myself a little wiser, and more than a little bit more humble. Setting goals — and going back to look at them — does that to a person.  For most of us, it takes a whole lot of effort to do goal-setting.  If and when we do, though, it tends to be really energizing.  Why?  You choose something that matters and that gets you stoked. And a goal points in a direction, and that helps you to feel efficient and focused.

Of course, life gets in between us and our goals. Sometimes obstacles arise; then there are the demanding daily tasks that distract; and sometimes a destination that seemed proximate in the moment of goal-setting turns out to lie an incredible distance away.  We get humbled.  For example, I planned to create and land a leadership TV show in 2012. The path was not straight, was filled with costs and obstacles, and as I approached it the goal was less enticing.  I redirected. I didn’t get it done. Bummer.

But as the writer Peter Senge teaches, “It’s not what the vision is, but what the vision does.”  Pursuing the vision led me to learn a ton: how to write and produce short-form videos on leadership, to sit like an anchor with stature, to sing in front of an audience, and to write more simply. I failed. Yes.  And I grew and learned.

In the most literal and vital figurative sense, leaders have no choice: they must have a destination.  (If not, why in the world should anyone follow?)  We — who desire to lead others to better places — have to spend some time to think through our “state of the union,” our “annual plan,” our “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.”  And, if, in order to reach our goal together, we hope and expect others to be willing to work hard, sacrifice, cooperate, innovate, etc., then . . .

We must set the example!  Set our own course.  Choose a destination that we will seek after and that we will pursue with conviction.  You matter.  So pull out some scratch paper and sketch something that would really make you feel great on December 31, 2013!  As Ike said, the plan may be useless, but the planning is indispensable.

Hit the Comments button to see my goal(s).  I’d love it if you chose to share your goal(s) with the RFL community and with me.  What shall we do as we

Lead with our best selves?!


  • I have 4 key goals: to meditate twice a day, every day; to raise my teaching quality so that my reviews top a 6 of 7; to identify a core idea for my next book and future TED talk; and to support my family so that they are leading and living with their best selves.
    I’m eager for input on establishing a goal that proves that I have improved Reading for Leading.
    Any thoughts?

  • My key goal in 2013 is to not to worry about the future. To accomplish that, I will take seminars & network with colleagues to prepare me for opportunities, and exercise regularly to keep myself healthy in body and mind. I have taken step one today by deciding on my first seminar date in January!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Dan,
    You asked for input on establishing a goal that proves you have improved RFL. My input: Find a way to measure how long a reader keeps the email open. Also, can you embed a way for the reader to quickly indicate thumbs up or down ( a “like” button! ) ?

    RFL is in my inbox on Monday mornings. Working for a small non profit, I am always seeking sources of knowledge, ideas and inspiration and often your column provides it. However( honest feedback here…), sometimes , well, your too fluffy. I scan your headline… And the first few sentences , and if its fluff, I delete and move on. There is no time for fluff in my Monday morning. I think this is a common response, so measuring the open rate doesn’t give you a true picture … measuring the length of time open though could give you an indication of whether your message is actually being read. Increasing the “time open” average, could indicate people are reading more.

    Also, don’t consider a lack of feedback too negatively. Your readers are probably like me, extremely busy people who skim a lot! I don’t bother responding often , but I DO appreciate the work you do. Keep it up!

    Give a Michigan hug to that wonderful family of yours, and thanks for all you do to help people lead with their best self!

    • Nanette,
      Thanks so much for the great feedback. I’ll watch my “fluff” and put that in my pre-writing notes.
      I also like your idea of trying to measure “completion” and not just “opening.”
      Will check with the great Christine Barry who manages my Word Press to see if we can see that!
      Thanks for the constructive and warm feedback!

  • My foundational goal for 2013 is to work earnestly on becoming the leader that I would want to follow. I have lots of work to do lol…but I am committed to the self challenge!

  • Happy New Year Dan,

    3 goals: 1st To make positive and aposite comments to keep you in touch with a wider world; 2nd to judge elected officials by what they DO; 3rd to strive to make those I meet happy.

    May God bless you and your country in 2013. May the NRA find humanity and the House of Representatives sanity and may those in despair find hope.

    All the best for your own goals.
    Phil .

  • My ongoing goals:
    1. Have more fun! (I tend to be compulsive about goal achievement so I’d benefit from being more balanced, more relationship-oriented.)
    2. Continue being curious and inquiring so I will learn from people, articles, books, blogs, etc.
    3. Continue networking and sharing and connecting.
    4. Continue following that calm inner voice that coaches “Go here! Do this! Read that! Get some sleep!” …or whatever… as the most effective way I’ve found to discern my path of abundance, of becoming more of what I’m here on the planet for at this time, in this place. Another way to say this is to discern what I have to offer in relation to optimal opportunities to offer it, because there are people and programs that could benefit from my skill set and vision.

    Possible advice for you and RFL? Use a marketing approach, perhaps with help from a marketing student in the university where you teach. Conduct content analysis of past columns to determine which topics or which guest bloggers resonated so strongly with subscribers that they just had to make the time to post a comment. Explore those topics more deeply in future columns because they’re subscribers’ way of telling you things that they think you—or other subscribers–need to know. If you need more input, contact the people who posted and maybe develop a monkey survey about the impetus for their posting.

    Just a thought! Thanks for asking. Wishing you continued success at all the worthwhile things you do.

  • Hi Dan. Loved your comments and goals. Mine are simple: exercise more, spend less time on the computer playing games, work on ridding resentments.

  • I find it heartening that I’m not the only person embarrassed and perplexed by the process of goal-setting. Most of the times that I revisit passages where I have creatively visualized where I want to be in the future, I ask myself “What was I thinking? Did I really know so little about myself as to think that this would be a satisfying outcome?” Sharing my goals is even more difficult, not merely because it engenders greater responsibility to fulfill them (part of the point, of course), but also because it feels like I am asking others to approve my goals as both attainable and worthwhile. I find myself insisting too often “If it matters to ME, it matters,” which is something I don’t have to say if I keep such things to myself.

    And yet, to the point of your post, I have also seen how setting and sharing goals has established a trajectory toward developments that I DO find satisfying, and often to a degree that makes the original goal irrelevant. For instance, this year I visualized myself in a Myrtle Beach vacation photo looking good in a swimsuit, and the specificity of that goal helped me get my weight below 160 for the first time in decades even though the weather on vacation was lousy and I never even wore a swimsuit, much less got that (relatively) flattering picture.

    So I will share this: 2012 was a year that deposited a lot of unfinished business on my already-cluttered doorstep, so I will consider 2013 a success if by this time next year I have archived all of the materials entrusted to me and either discarded or completed all of the projects awaiting my attention (which may mean that I toss a lot of stuff on December 31, 2013, but let’s build a little life hack into this goal!). Bonus points if I get my straw bale gardening project up and running.

    To your other question, I think you should set a goal for RFL that you increase both your readership and your comments by a certain percentage. This seems to me the best measurable indication that you are both building and engaging your audience.

  • Dan,

    I thought your article was as they said in the 70’s “right on man”. As a leader of a fundraising team dealing with a challenging economic and fiscal enviornment – clear planning is essential.

    My goals for 2013:

    1. increase my skill level at establishing a clearer vision and communicate it to my team and the Board.

    2. create a program (as part of my personal voluntary passion) to have an impact of the growing epidemic of diabetes in the U.S.

    3. create a blog on topic #2, We are arguably the most powerful nation on the planet and nearly 30 million people have or are on the edge of having diabetes in our country (that is nearly 10% of our population).

    I really appreciate your “stuff”, keep you the excellent work. It inspires many, and we all need some inspiration. Happy New Year.

  • Dan, thanks for sharing your goals and reminding us about our own. One of Steven Covey’s sons calls the big goals WIGs – wildly important goals. He says, in work settings, 3 is the max. With all we have to do – the little and medium stuff – that’s all the big ones we can accomplish. Even 4 goals won’t get accomplished, he says.

    I don’t know yet what my WIGs are though they include these, still to be refined with specifics.

    1. End the two-city life my husband and I have lived for almost 4 years because of our jobs.

    2. Work in a way that more consistently uses my best talents to serve others.

    3. Keep focusing on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and thriving.

    Happy new year holidays to all.

  • Living life according to your passion is not goal setting. I appreciate your dedication to your passion of leading. Some folks work at jobs and get a paycheck. Goal setting is necessary for those. Leaders lead as a way of life. As you continue to influence others, you too, will measure your past. Congratulations on a fine year of leading.

    From another Michigan leader

  • In sequential, not necessarily priority, order, these are my 2013 goals:

    1. To help create a smooth transition to our new life back in Michigan
    2. Once back in Detroit, to never forget the primary reason for returning there – being able to experience the everyday thrills of having son, daughter-in-law and grandchild close by – and then capitalizing on it
    3. To establish myself in my new job so that I can begin to create great value for the institution and for Southeastern Michigan
    4. To re-connect with and deepen my relationships with friends and colleagues
    5. To carve out time for hobbies and volunteering

  • Dan,
    My husband sent me your email and I am glad. I have lofty goals. Many would say impossible. My goal is to develop the next facebook geared toward health. I spent last year acquiring the knowledge and this year I will develop the design. My biggest roadblock is finding the right people to work on this with me. You are right, we should have a destination, we should reach toward a goal, and we should feel good about our accomplishments. We are never too old to dream.

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