I’m an inveterate planner. It’s one of the best skills I learned through my decades in the non-profit sector. I planned everything: programs, hiring processes, budgets, and organizational strategic direction.

Planning is the means by which I mapped out HOW to get to my GOAL, and WHAT I needed to do and assemble along the way. Usually, I planned with others in a team. We started with some vision of our desired outcome, and then made a plan to get us from where we were at that moment in time to our desired end state.

However, planning was more than simply the process of creating a map. Planning allowed me to enroll others into sharing the vision and joining the team. It helped everyone learn how they did and could contribute to reaching the goal. Planning taught people how to plan, thereby enhancing their effectiveness in every area of their work lives and perhaps also their personal life.

Today, I apply my planning skills, methods, and tools to my own life, and help others do the same. For example, today I talked to someone about doing a SWOT analysis on herself. These are the questions I suggested.

Strengths – What are my strengths? What am I really good at? What are my talents? What skills do I have that I love using? What makes me happiest? Where do I feel best about myself? Doing what? When? With whom?

: What am I not so great at? What don’t I like doing? What do I wish someone else could take care of for me? How’s my attitude? Am I asking for help?

Opportunities: What exists in the outside world that could help me realize my dreams and achieve my goals? Who do I know? What kind of information is out there for me to gather? What networks could I join? Are there opportunities for me to develop my skills, to discover my talents, to build my confidence, to feel more hopeful and positive? What can I do to give value to others, to be of service? Am I willing to leave no stone unturned in my quest?

Threats: Are there things in the external environment that could upset my plans or hopes? Have I put too much emphasis on one or two options? Do I know as much as I can about myself and my abilities? Do I have ideas and negative thoughts that could trip me up?

The point is to identify those attributes, beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes that I can a) capitalize on (S); b) compensate for in some way (W); c) maximize (O); and d) minimize (T).