Those are three phrases that I use to guide many facets of my personal and professional life. I did not grow up knowing how to do any of these things with respect to advancement (or much of anything else). It is through 35 years of practice that I have become more seasoned in these areas.
With respect to planning (i.e., the focus of this issue), in my very first development position, I was asked to write a plan on how to increase totals aggressively in a relatively new phonathon program. Terrified does not even begin to describe what 25-year old me felt. I had no clue what the vice president of this university wanted to see or how to begin or why I had to do it. My first step was to ask my peers what they thought should be in my section of the plan.
Lesson #1: Peer guidance is essential. Asking your colleagues up and down the line takes the “scare” out of how to write a plan and spurs creative and aspirational thinking. Do not attempt to write your plan in a silo; build buy-in along the way by asking questions. If your office is small, reach out to counterparts in other organizations. They will value the opportunity for discussion as much as you. I did this routinely in smaller shops later in my career to create annual action plans.
Lesson #2: Set ambitious goals. Doing what you did last year in the same way is likely to yield the same results. You have to dream big in order to attain big results.
Lesson #3: Be specific in how you set goals (dollar, donor, communication, number of prospect visits, etc.). How will you ever know if you are successful if you are not specific in setting your goals? Force yourself to be accountable: execute the plan.
In the end if you dream big, plan well, and execute to perfection, your program will grow and so will you as a professional.