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By Douglas Vermeeren

RISMEDIA, June 26, 2008-By now you’ve long forgotten the New Year’s resolutions you promised to uphold this year. You know from experience that those resolutions won’t stick, so stop wasting your time on them. If you really want to succeed, you need a clear-cut plan and the commitment to follow it. Only then can you finally achieve the success you’ve always wanted.

But the question is, “How do I plan something as complex as my future?” That’s a valid question.

Unfortunately, many people believe planning for success is a complicated process filled with detailed charts and timelines, or they think planning is nothing more than stating a few goals. In fact, effective planning falls in the middle of this spectrum. Yes, you do need goals, but you need to take those goals to the next level. And yes, you do need details, but the details you need rest more on what you create in your mind, not what you can calculate on paper.

To find the right balance and create a winning plan for your future, consider the following guidelines:

Learn the difference between “should” and “must.”

When most people state a goal or try to plan, they do so in terms of “should.” “I should go to the gym more this year.” “I should schedule more prospect appointments for the week.” “I should do better follow up with clients.” Realize, though, that “should’s” rarely get done. Instead, think in terms of what you “must” do. The word “must” carries with it a sense of urgency. As such, “musts” usually get done. Remember than an effective plan always begins with a decision (a must), not just a nice idea (a should). We all have lots of nice ideas, but when you turn that nice idea into a clear cut decision, you automatically have a sense of commitment and have thereby turned the idea into a must.

Take your plan from fact to feeling.

Most people are great at stating facts, such as, “I’m going to sell 50 insurance policies this month.” Such goals are nice to say, but in order to make them a reality, you need to attach the fact to a feeling. Why? Because it’s the feeling that motivates us, not the fact. Realize that no one ever dreams of having a filing cabinet filled with signed policies. Instead, they have a feeling or desire for what that full filing cabinet represents: more time off with the family, a new car, an exotic vacation, etc. Therefore, part of your plan needs to include the facts, but don’t forget to tie those facts to some motivating feelings.

Create a vision using all your senses.

Visualization is a key component to any successful plan. And you’ve likely heard of creating a vision board, when you cut out pictures of the things you want in your life and post them on a board in your home or office. The problem with the typical vision board is that it only uses one of your senses-the sense of sight. If you really want your vision to guide you, you need to incorporate all five senses. Therefore, go beyond the typical vision board. Pick out a victory song that represents your vision and listen to the song every day (auditory component). As you achieve small milestones, celebrate at a restaurant (taste component). Pick a smell that symbolizes success for you (perhaps a certain brand of cologne, or maybe even the smell of roses) and surround yourself with the fragrance.

Similarly, if you want a new car, go test drive the car. Smell the new car smell, feel the leather, listen to the engine hum. The point is not only to use a vision board, but also to expand it so it’s not just a matter of sight.

Think through your entire journey to see all the possibilities.

Your plan doesn’t just involve the end result; it involves the journey as well. Therefore, mentally go through the journey of what it will take to get to the end vision. By doing so, your mind will automatically start solving problems. It’s a lot like telling someone to notice what he feels in his left foot. Chances are that until that moment, the person wasn’t thinking about his left foot at all. But the minute you draw his foot to his attention, he starts recognizing sensations. The same happens when you plan. When you know the journey and how things are supposed to go, those things start to appear in your life. Some people call it The Law of Attraction. In fact, those things you suddenly see were always there. But now that you know where you’re going, you can see where everything fits. So once you know where you’re going, possibilities begin to appear. The key is to then translate those possibilities into action, as that is when you produce the real fruit of your labor and move closer to the end goal. Remember, without action, all you have are ideas.

Write everything down.

As you plan, keep a planning journal where you can write your ideas down. Putting your plans on paper does two things: 1) It ingrains the vision into your mind, and 2) It helps you determine which ideas are good and which are not. Sometimes you might discover that what you wrote makes no sense at all, and you’ll realize that you need to go back to the drawing board. Other times you’ll see how viable your idea really is and how you can build on it for even more success.

Prepare for defeat.

No matter how great a plan you have, you need to plan for defeat, because along the way you will always have challenges. It’s not a matter of “if” the challenges appear; it’s a matter of “when.” The key difference between top achiever and those who don’t accomplish much is based on how they deal with failure. People who don’t accomplish much stop at the first obstacle. Top achievers find a way through every challenge. Also, top achievers are not perfectionists, and they don’t wait for ideal conditions before they act. Top achievers are improvisers. No matter what the conditions, they find ways to improve them and make them work. You simply can’t afford to wait for all the answers. The world is changing so fast that you have to act based upon what’s happening now and improvise as you go. That’s the only way to ensure your plan is a success.

Take Action on Your Future Now.

Everyone always wants the next month or year to be better than the previous ones, but that will only happen if you take action. Use these guidelines as you plan and your future will fall into place. People always say, “Knowledge is power,” but that’s a misnomer. The truth is that applied knowledge is power. You now have the knowledge. Apply it wisely!

Doug Vermeeren is an author and motivational speaker on goal setting and human performance. As the author of “Accelerated Achievement” and “Amazing Success,” Doug has developed a concrete method for goal setting and maximizing potential through more than 400 interviews with top achievers. Doug recently completed producing, “The Opus” a follow-up to the Law of Attraction documentary, “The Secret.” “The Opus” focuses on taking a vision, turning it into a plan and putting it to performance.

For more information, visit