What’s the difference between making a million dollars and earning a college degree? Absolutely nothing. Both are completely attainable goals. Now what’s the difference between the woman that achieves those goals and the woman who doesn’t? A plan.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a high school student who had come to visit our campus through a partnership program between my college and one of the local high schools. The topic of the session that day was about selecting courses and majors in college that line up with your intended career. After the session we had some down time with the students and I asked a young lady what she was interested in pursuing as a career. She said that she wanted to work in public relations and was hoping to work for the Philadelphia Eagles football team. But as she said it, I could sense the hesitation in her voice. It’s almost as if she didn’t believe that this was an attainable goal. And she ultimately confirmed what I was thinking because she quickly said, “But I know that’s probably not realistic.” As shocking as this is going to sound, I would have to agree with her. Why? Because as I probed her more about her goal, I saw that she did not have a plan for how she would get there. So it was not difficult to see why she relegated this idea to the “It sure would be nice, but…” category.

Many of us do the same thing in life. We think of all these awesome things that we can do and become, but we don’t take the time to think about how we can actually get from the point of dreaming and wishing, to actually doing and becoming.  We need to change the way we see planning. Planning is necessary because it builds the foundation to anchor your aspirations so that they don’t just fly in the wind.

Over the weekend I was reading Hill Harper’s book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother. And in the chapter I was reading, he suggested that the inmate he had been corresponding with start to build a plan (or a foundation) to support his goal of becoming a graphic designer. The following exercise is something that he suggested that the young brother do and I agree that it is a great way to get your planning juices flowing. I hope Hill won’t mind that I shared it with you.

  1. Take a sheet of paper and draw three columns.
  2. Label column one – Assets
  3. Label column two – Liabilities
  4. Label column three – Actions
  5. Under Assets, you’re going to list all of the resources that you currently have at your disposal to use to achieve your dreams. So for example, in the case of the aspiring graphic designer, one of his assets is that he can draw very well.
  6. Now think of a liability. A liability is something that could potentially stop you from achieving your goal. So again, using the graphic design example, currently he is incarcerated and has no money to attend design school. So we would list that as a liability. However, remember not to list the liability on the same row as the asset. If you have determined that you have a liability, skip a space down from the asset and list it. This will help you with the next column.
  7. Lastly is the actions column. Wherever you see that you have a liability, in that same row, you’re going to write down an action that will help you turn that liability into an action. So in the previous example, we listed lack of financial resources as a liability. A good action item for this would be to research scholarships and special funding sources for school.

Make sense? Now let’s see you give it a shot.

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