Monday, March 15, 2010

Why You Need A Plan

I just bumped into an interesting article about success in career, thought i share it here for anyone who wants to get to where they want to be before they die. Using Benjamin Franklin as the model.

"It's all part of the plan." -Joker : )


By the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin had already established a plan by which he intended to live the rest of his life. If that strikes you as an unrealistic expectation, well, Franklin did exactly that, and he became one of the most accomplished and dynamic figures in American history along the way. It evidently worked out pretty well for him.

By the time he died in 1790, Franklin had been carrying that plan -- his 13 Virtues -- with him, in some form, for 64 years, using it to track his own progress decades after he had it committed to memory. That sense of personal accountability is certainly part of why he was so successful at it. Even if you have a pretty solid idea of where you're headed in life, adhering to a plan like Franklin's requires you to be responsible about your future -- otherwise you'll find it far too easy to explain away your failures and put off your goals.

You don't necessarily need to abide by this exact plan, or even to write one out like this at all, but you do need a framework for your self-improvement. If you're looking for someplace to start, Franklin's design is as good an example as any.

1- Self-improvement needs direction

Everyone, everywhere, has had the experience of settling on some haphazard goal for improving his life only to forget about it two weeks later (except, apparently, Ben Franklin). New Year's resolutions are representative of these enthusiastic but ill-conceived promises ("I'm going to get in shape -- and with no particular idea what I mean by that! Yeah!").

You can't just make a vague decision about becoming a Better Man and expect that impulsive, undefined concept to actually change your behavior for any real stretch of time. That is, after all, what you're almost certainly trying to do, and altering whatever routine you've become accustomed to means you need a definitive framework on hand. The value of actually writing this stuff down is that definite goals, goals you actually track, are harder to ignore than some indeterminate, conceptual self-improvement that doesn't really call for you to do much of anything.

2- A plan forces accountability

The puritan origins of Franklin's virtues are pretty obvious in this regard: His plan calls for temperance ("Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation") and moderation ("Avoid extreames"), as well as frugality, cleanliness and chastity. Although permitting yourself to become an overweight, wasteful drunk will probably present you with no difficulty in staying chaste, the point here is that you're sabotaging your life if you don't hold yourself accountable for the mistakes you make.

Again, Franklin's Puritanism was his, not yours, and you don't need to go become a monk, but you should be aware of all the stuff you do that isn't helping your life one bit. Modern examples of life plans tend to acknowledge the importance of accountability. Bill Phillips' Body for Life tracks both diet and weight-training progress, and financial frameworks (budget or investment planning, for example) are even more dependent on showing progress with concrete figures.

3- Knowing your direction keeps you from wasting your life

Franklin was raised with the belief that hard work has inherent worth, which is a good way to look at life if you want to excel at your career -- or really any extensive personal accomplishment. Three of his virtues were industry ("Lose no time"), order ("Let each part of your business have its time") and resolution ("Perform without fail what you resolve"). Holding yourself accountable for your mistakes is only the first half of accountability, because just being aware of what you’re doing wrong isn't much of a self-improvement.

If, on the other hand, you're forcing yourself to maintain progress based on a set of intelligently chosen goals, you're actually trying to accomplish something genuine. Apathy is your worst enemy, and the best intentions in the world are far less effective at getting you where you want to be than a set of intelligently chosen goals.

13 virtues to a good life

Just because Franklin's plan is oriented toward self-denial doesn't mean that yours has to be. Some of his virtues are easily covered by the simple decision just to be good to people: These include silence, sincerity, tranquility, and, the most representative of them, justice ("Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.") That last bit about duty is sort of what this entire process is about, and it calls for you to supplement the part of the plan where you avoid detrimental things with a resolution to be actively good as well. Self-improvement too often focuses cosmetic or self-serving goals, but it's just as important to start being a Better Man by being a better human being.

source of article here at