“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” - Benjamin Franklin
Let us be real! Gone are the days when we just woke up and did what our minds told us to do and expected everything to go smoothly and reach the desired outcome. I am glad I am not living in those days as I would not learn anything. I am sure you agree. It does not matter what you do – you may be a learner or student, a parent, worker or employed, a manager, or a business owner – you have to plan for everything you do in order for you to influence its success at the end.
Let us backtrack a bit. What exactly is planning? It is simply that process of setting goals, developing strategies, and outlining tasks and schedules that you need to follow to accomplish your goals. You may do this consciously or not but you do follow a particular though process in your mind – whether you write it down or keep it mentally. Remember the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.
Why do you have to plan? You do the planning because you want to succeed in whatever it is you are doing. The fact that you devote your time in anything – studying, your career, your work – it shows how much significance it has and therefore you would want that to have a positive outcome. Consider the following as suggested by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career planning expert, and customise it to suite your own situation:
- Know yourself, your passion and go for it: Before anything, you need to realise what you want and go after it. You cannot devote you time on anything that does not contribute to what you want to achieve in life. Know that you may be building your career that you will be spending the rest of your life on – is it exactly what you want and will you do it every day of your life? If you have no doubt, then go for it. If you are still not sure, then it is never too late to find that one thing that you are most passionate about and go after it.
- Do not let anyone to tell you what your best choice is: McKay suggests that one should ignore those who say, “Pick this field because it has lots of opportunities right now,” “You will make loads of money so it doesn’t matter if you hate your job” and “I like this career and therefore you will too”. It is very important to note that whatever you do should remain your personal decision and you are the only one that will be affected by it.
- Measure your own success: How do you define success? Is it the size of your paycheck or having the corner office? Is it the feeling you get when you know you did a great job on a project (praise from the boss doesn’t hurt) or the one you get when you know you helped someone? Perhaps you feel successful after putting in a day at work and coming home at a reasonable hour to spend time with your family. Since everyone measures success differently, only you can determine what it means to you. Your satisfaction with your career is strongly linked to how successfully you feel you have met your own, and not anyone else’s, definition of it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: As much as you think you know, you don’t know it all. There are people who have more experience than you do and with that experience comes knowledge. In order to have access to that knowledge, make sure your network is filled with contacts other than your peers. Establish a relationship with a mentor who can guide you through your career. More experienced contacts can help you with things like learning more about an occupation you are considering, getting the lowdown on an employer before a job interview or solving a problem at work.
- Always acknowledge people who help you: It may sound simple, but it’s truly a significant gesture: always thank those who offer your assistance. Whether someone gives you five minutes of his time or an introduction to a potential employer, it’s important you let him know that what he did meant something to you. And when that person or another needs help, you can return the favour. Consider it good karma.
- Own your mistakes: You know what they say about mistakes. Everybody makes them and you are no exception. Of course you will do what you can to avoid making a serious error, but sometimes they happen anyway. While your instinct may be to run away and hide, that is actually the worse thing you can do. Admitting your error, finding a way to fix it or at least taking an action that lessens its effects, will help restore your reputation.
- Be your own cheerleader: Root for yourself because if you aren’t your own biggest fan, who will be? Take note of and pride in all your successes and positive attributes. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you “job well done!” Reflecting on your own achievements will spur you on to accomplish even greater ones.
- Don’t beat yourself up: From time to time a little voice inside your head might whisper (hopefully not shout) that you aren’t good enough or smart enough. Tell it to shut up! Unfortunately there will be plenty of people quite willing to bring you down. Don’t do it to yourself. When you make a mistake, admit it, fix it and move on. If you are missing a skill or have some other shortcoming, take whatever measures necessary to improve.
- Never feel like you are stuck: No matter how careful you were about choosing the “right” career, at some point you may become disheartened with it. Give yourself permission to explore other options. You will probably be able to come up with a bunch of reasons not to, but remember the first tip about life being too short to spend it wishing you were doing something else? The older you get, the more you will come to believe it.
- Lose the negative attitude: For some people, every silver lining has a cloud. They see only the negative side of things, always finding something to complain about. Don’t be that person. You will bring yourself down and you will bring others down with you. A negative attitude saps yours and everyone else’s energy. That’s not to say you should ignore problems. Instead look for ways to fix them.
- Listen more than you speak: You can learn a lot by listening…and miss a lot if you don’t. Whether your boss is explaining a project to you or telling you about his weekend, it is important that you understand what he is saying. Careful listening will keep you from misunderstanding instructions and will help you build rapport with others. If you listened carefully to your boss’s story about his hiking expedition, you may discover that you have a love of this activity in common. Who knew?
- Be extraordinary: Reading from Robert Chen, a ‘lifehack’ expert, I support his belief that “If you do the same thing as everyone else, it is hard to be successful. It is important to find the edge and then push past it. That is how you become noticed and get what you want. Whether it is money, meaningful relationships and/or a sense of personal accomplishment, the extraordinary person attracts them all”.
BEAT Magazine SA spoke to a number of young people about the importance of planning in their respective areas. We asked them to give a brief about themselves and what they are doing; to share what help, if any, have they found in planning in their chosen lives?; to share any lesson they have learnt about not planning?; and, finally, to give advice to our readers in general.
I am Ntombizanele Zaza Vungayi. I was born and bred in Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape and I am currently based in Pretoria. I am an LLB graduate from the former Univerversity of Port Elizabeth (UPE), which is currently Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I am running the Maintenance Court at Pretoria Magistrates Court. In short, I basically do those court orders that ensure the protection of children – making sure that they are eating, going to school, have shelter and are clothed.
Help that I have found from planning is that all things that I do which have been properly planned would always come out with 100% results as opposed to the rushed jobs. I have always been the “last minute” kind of person, even back from my varsity days where I would get an assignment done weeks in advance but only do it few days before due date. But growing up I saw that all the things are done without planning never really display your full abilities. That would be the lesson learnt.
Advice that I would give is that planning is like building a house where you first have to put down the foundation. Just imagine a house that is built without a foundation? Exactly.
My name is Ntuthuzelo Mbeseza who was born in the township of Zwelitsha in 1982. My clan is Leta. I did my basic education in Zwelitsha and my higher education at Lovedale and Walter Sisulu University. I am currently working for the Dept of Human Settlements as an Assistant Director in the Office of the COO.
Planning is one of the things I took for granted when I grew up without realizing the importance of it. I never had any kind of guidance on how to plan my life as an individual and I ended up doing things I wouldn’t have done if I had planned my life. I had 2 kids when I was still at high school without thinking about the impact of that in a long run and when I was at tertiary I had a 3rd child and I was still not even thinking about the future at all.
When I started working, I realized the importance of planning and I started planning because I knew it can never be too late to plan as I am still young and have kids to plan for as well. I started prioritizing studies while I was working then planned to have a proper family as a responsible man. My past had an impact on my plans but I had to live with it as it was part of me. My plans started blossoming as I got married in 2011, then started a second Diploma which I completed in 2014. I am 33 this year and my life is still going better with planning although I still have a lot planned and I will make sure I don’t do the mistakes I did before.
If I could have planned things would have been different from where I am now, nevertheless, it is never late to plan especially if you are still young. Assisting your children to plan at an early stage is the second best thing you can give to your kids after education, show them the future through planning, give them guidance on how to tackle hiccups in life through planning because if you don’t criminals will give them a better plan.
I am Dorcas Ndlangana from Port Elizabeth. I am a young and upcoming chef that works well in the cold kitchen but specialises in patisserie. Planning is a necessity in the kitchen; if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Cakes are a great example of such as a cake needs to be well rested before you can start icing it and making it edible art. If this is not done you planning for disasters I have learnt this the hard way.