To Get What You Want, Plan For What You Want

When I was in the middle of my corporate career, I was asked to turn in annual goals every January, and so I got into the habit of setting aside time on my birthday, which just happens to fall during the last week of the year (it was yesterday). I would take that day off as a personal vacation day and spend it reflecting on what I’d done the previous year and contemplating what I’d like to do during the next.

During my annual retreat, I would set goals, determine what books I wanted to read, what classes I wanted to take for personal and professional growth, etc. I looked at all areas of my life, not just the professional side. For example, when I decided to spruce up our home’s master bathroom one year with new flooring and wall paint, it went on my plan.

Every year, I still do my birthday retreat. In fact, yesterday was my birthday, and I took the day off for my retreat!

I also do mini, half-day planning retreats quarterly. In fact, I recall one very powerful mini-retreat that I did in March 2008 that really catapulted me forward! That’s when I set the intention that I would complete and publish the book that I’d been writing off and on over the previous 4 years. I pledged to have it out by September that same year. I wrote down all the action steps that I needed to take (along with any resources I needed for each step) to make this goal a reality. To stay disciplined, I put these steps on my calendar, picking realistic dates for each. Even though I was off the mark by a few weeks, I did, indeed, publish my book in October of 2008.

4 Tips For A Successful Personal Planning Retreat
1. Create uninterrupted space and time for yourself – put the date on your calendar and protect it like you would a vacation day. No kids, no managers, no employees, no significant others demanding your time. No electronics either… that is unless you are using a computer strictly for typing your plan. You must truly think of this as YOUR time.

2. It’s up to you how often you want to have your personal planning retreats. You can make this an annual event, perhaps on your birthday like I do. Of course, you might also find it useful to schedule your retreats more frequently. Like I mentioned, some people enjoy this process so much that they schedule bi-annual or quarterly personal retreats.

3. Ideally, give yourself a half day to a whole day away from the normal distractions. This is a time when you will do a lot of inner reflection, so I strongly advise you go to a different place where you can enjoy solitude if at all possible. Get out of the house or away from the office, turn off the phone and give yourself permission to think without distractions.

4. During your personal planning retreat, it’s a good idea to start off by asking yourself questions to check in and see where you are. When you answer the question, you are making an affirmative statement, which is a powerful goal acheiving technique. For me this is almost like a journaling process. I’m pretty good at tuning in and asking my own personalized questions because I’ve done this sort of thing for more than a decade now. However, here are some general questions for you to consider asking yourself if you’re not used to doing a process like this:
What is my intention?
OR, to be more specific…
What is my one big project to complete/problem to solve this year?

What do I need to reach success?
Break it down further…
– What knowledge/skills?
– What external support system?
– What physical needs/resources?

Set Timelines
It’s one thing to state what you want to do and what you need to get there, but until you put some timelines on these items, it’s all academic. I had a general intention to write a book for 4 years. It didn’t actually happen until I wrote the dream on a piece of paper, broke down the action steps, and then put everything on the calendar. Let’s face it, getting what you want requires a will to do it, but it also requires a plan with timelines!

I’m excited about what came of my retreat yesterday. The big commitments I made include building in more leisure time in 2012 (hey, that’s a huge deal for me!). I added some new items to my bucket list. I’m also planning to publish my last book on job search in early 2012, and then I’ll get started on the next one, which I’ve been dreaming about writing since 2009. It’s about personal vision and purpose from a whole-life perspective. Look out 2012 – here I come!

What about you? What will you set your sights on accomplishing next year? It doesn’t have to be big. You could keep it simple and just do on one thing at a time like practicing “gratitude” once or twice a day for a week and then switching to practicing “giving to others” once or twice a day for a week and so on.

Or maybe you want to do something highly ambitious with your career. Is it time to make that career move you’ve been putting off? If it’s not quite time for the move, maybe it’s time to make a plan for the move.

Or maybe you, too, can make or add to your own bucket list.

Hey, if you’ve never done a personal planning retreat before, maybe that’s the first thing you should be setting your sights on accomplishing next year!

Wishing you loads of joy, laughter and prosperity in the New Year!


Angela Loëb helps people rediscover and use their gifts so they can bring who they are to what they do. To learn more, please visit:

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