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Guest post by Susan Steele of Write to Finish

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? It’s February, so by now, we’re at the point where we’ve all pretty much abandoned them anyway.

Maybe New Year’s resolutions have never really worked for you.  With the start of a new year, it’s time to try something different  – something more comprehensive that would help you grow your business!

Are you struggling to decide where to spend your effort within your business? Susan started using core values to help her figure out what to say Yes and No to, within her business and everyday life. Check out her tips on how to create a plan based on your own core values for your business and your life. | business planning, startup, entrepreneurship, small business, strategic plan, mission, vision, #bizplan

This year, I created a personal strategic plan using my core values.  It’s a way for me to ensure that my business grows and that I have activities in my life that make me feel good. It all goes back to my “why” and what’s really meaningful for me. I’m going to walk you through how to put your strategic plan together – and there’s a special bonus at the end of the post!

Why You Need To Identify Your Core Values

Two years ago, I worked with a coach and one of the first exercises she had me complete was defining my core values.  As I did, I realized it was something I should have done long ago.  In the abstract, it’s easy to say you have core values: I’m honest, I’m ethical, I try to do my best at all times, etc.

But defining a specific set of values makes it more real – and actionable.

Core values can mean different things to different people, so it’s important that you understand how you’re selecting your own values.  Some may consider core values to be a way you live your life – how you act and behave.

For me, my core values are the things I have to have in my life to feel fulfilled.  It’s pretty simple – if I don’t have them, I don’t feel good.  

Making decisions about your life gets MUCH easier when you know what’s important to you.

How To Identify Your Core Values

There are many different ways to identify your core values.  You may already have some ideas, which is great.  Writing them down is just as important as having them to begin with.  Do something that makes your values more “real” to you, so that you use them to create a life that you enjoy.

My coach gave me a list of close to 400 values to choose from. (You can find a list of over 200 core values here.)  I did a simple elimination process.  I started by crossing off the ones that didn’t mean that much to me.  That still left me with a pretty hefty list of over 20.

The goal is to have three to four at the most.  My recommendation is to get to your longer list of 20 or so, and then let it sit for a day or two.  Go back and see if you’ve changed your mind.

The next round of elimination is hard – but that’s good!  You’re going to be using this list to have a better life.  Choose carefully and choose what’s most meaningful to you.  Don’t rush the process.  It may take a week or more until you’ve lived with your choices and they feel right for you.

The last step is to create a short description of each value; you want to be specific enough so that you can measure the presence of that value in your life.

For example, my four values are Knowledge, Challenge, Impact and Energy Balance.

My description for Knowledge is: Create opportunities to learn new things.  Be curious and have time to immerse myself in various topics as I choose.  Synthesize new ideas or curate ideas.  

Share these new or curated ideas in a way that is inspiring to others.

How To Create A Personal Strategic Plan Using Your Values

So now that you’ve identified your core values and what they mean, you can use those values to create your personal strategic plan.

You probably already have a list of things you want to do.  Do they fit within the values you’ve defined?  If not, are you sure you still want to do them?

And what if your list isn’t comprehensive?  Make sure you have activities that support each value that you have.

One of my core values is Challenge and for me, that’s sewing!  I’ve only done a few projects, but I enjoy it and want to get better at it.  So here’s how I break that down:

  • Goal: Increase sewing skills
  • Strategy:  Sew a new dress
  • Tactics:  Purchase material; purchase findings (zipper, thread); cut the pattern; sew the dress

Now I just need to plan out where those activities occur throughout the year.  (The beauty of a personal strategic plan is that you can start it whenever you want.  You don’t have to wait until next January!)

I’ve put together a short, 3-tab spreadsheet to help you create your personal strategic plan.  The first tab lists your mission, vision, and values.  The second tab is a SWOT Analysis:  Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Most businesses use SWOT analysis as part of a strategic plan, and since I’ve been in the corporate world for the past several years, it was something I was used to.  You don’t need to fill it out, but it may help you pinpoint areas to focus on for your own business.

The last tab is where the fun begins! There’s a sample goal included so you can see how to break it down and schedule your activities throughout the year.

Click here to download the sample strategic plan!

I hope you found this information helpful for making sure that the activities in your life are rewarding and fulfilling.  Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments.  And feel free to share your tips for defining and using your core values!

About the Author:

Susan Steele - Writing CoachSusan Steele is a writing coach and editor, and she specializes in helping entrepreneurs and coaches write high impact books to take their business to the next level. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

You can find her online at http://writetofinish.com/.

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