I remember driving home from work one day feeling so overwhelmed. I was exhausted! What is worse is that I could not think of one productive thing I did the entire day. Sure, I had been busy the entire day and could recount most of the fires I put out, but what did I actually accomplish?

Have you ever felt like this?

That day, over 10 years ago, I had decided to stop spinning my wheels and running from fire to fire. It was time to lead with a purpose. Initially, I had focused on time management and that has evolved into hundreds of books on self-reflection, leadership, marketing and all the other rabbits I have been chasing. All of this study has led me to a simple process: plan. do. what’s next?

Plan: We all make plans. The problem is we do not keep them. Are you still holding true to your New Year’s resolution? Why not? The answer is simple. We allow our plans to become bigger than us. We say as Airmen that we will become Chiefs and yet so few do. It is a great thing to plan for our futures and to want to accomplish great things. However, we have remember who we are as humans first.

We try to formulate the perfect plan to get us to the end goal. At first, we aren’t too stressed, because we are only Airmen and have a long time before we can become a Chief. Then as the years fly by we realize we are not where we should be and start to look for the “get rich quick” schemes. Then eventually, we just give up all together. Our plan was not something we could manage because it was way too big.

We still need to have big goals like getting our degree, making Chief or being debt free. What needs to be different is the plan. We need to make our plans smaller than our day. What is the next step we can take to get there? Imagine going on a hike in the mountains. We know where we want to be and that the only way to get there is to take the next step. Our big goals are the mountain peaks in the distance.

Do: We will never have the perfect plan. Sticking with the hiking analogy, there is no way to know exactly what will be in our path to the mountain top. We can make some very good guesses and even account for some of the unknowns, but I think we can all agree that our plan will never be perfect. So, once you know where you are going…get moving.

Take that step and then the next and the next. Constantly keep your end goal in sight and ensure what you are doing is moving you in that direction. When obstacles block our paths, determine whether you are going to go around, over it or through it and keep moving. All the while adjusting your plan as you go towards your end goal.

What’s Next? Eventually, you will make it to your goal or some major milestones along the way. Ask yourself “what is next?” Don’t stop moving towards new goals and evaluating your end goals. Two examples from me are my Masters and my rank.

When I achieved my Master’s degree, I had no desire to get my PhD. Instead, I decided to master what I learned and dive even deeper into the topics I studied to get my degree. Mastery of an area in your life, is just as good as ascending some new mountain top.

The other example is that I was the Airman who wanted to make Chief. As I progressed in the ranks, I loved being able to help right a lot of the wrongs I experienced and give back to those on the ground. It turned out that making rank isn’t what mattered to me, it was serving those on my team and I could do that from any rank. My priorities in life shifted too as I became a father and soon realized I could not be the Chief I would respect and the father I wanted to be at the same time. I didn’t decide this because I thought Chief would be too hard to make or too much work.

Where are you heading? What is the next step you can take today to get you just a bit closer?

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