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Business & Life Skills

Decision Making: A Business Plan for Life

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Pretty young woman making a decision with arrows and question maHow do you know when to leave a job, ask for a promotion, or stay put?  Having problems fitting your personal life given your demanding work schedule?  Join CJ as she talks to Allison Rimm, author of “The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life” to get some of her practical coaching tips on decision making.



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Blog Post by our Guest

Short Answers to Listener questions by Allison Rim.

Q: What is a business plan for life and why do you need one?

A: A strategic plan starts with the definition of your purpose – what you want to accomplish – and the development of the specific actions you will take to achieve your goals.  The Joy of Strategy presents the steps that will make you more successful managing any project whether it’s a complex undertaking at work or the business of your life. Your life is serious business, so you need a business plan for your life. When we are talking about planning for your life, we go one step further than the traditional planning process.  Following this program, you will factor in how to bring joy, pleasure, and balance into every day life so you can enjoy the process as you work toward achieving your goals

Q: Are people spending enough time reflecting on the quality of their lives?

A: Most of us are so busy running from task to task that we’re lucky to get through the day. When you’re running to keep up, it’s hard to set aside time to think about the quality of your life, let alone how to improve it.  Also, many people need guidance as to how to go about evaluating their lives in a systematic way or how to make a specific plan to improve it even if they could find the time.

Q: How would this business plan help in making career decisions?

A: Your vision statement can help with all kinds of decisions.  A new opportunity presents itself.  Should you take it?  A quick look at your vision statement will help you decide if doing so will contribute to your idea of success or if it will take you in the wrong direction. Let’s look at a concrete example. Say you’re offered a job as a financial analyst.  It sounds like an interesting challenge, and it’s a promotion.  You’re momentarily intrigued.  Then you look at your vision statement and realize your mission to become manager is going to require that you get some experience supervising other people.  The only thing you’ll be supervising as an analyst is a bunch of spreadsheets.  The new job would move you up all right, but in a direction that moves you away from your goal, not toward it.  No, this isn’t the best strategic move you can make.  But it’s a useful wakeup call.  You are due for a promotion and resolve to make an appointment today to talk to your boss about giving you a project with a few people to manage. Your vision can also be a useful filter for deciding what to add to your already overflowing plate.  Does serving on that fundraising committee at your church contribute to your vision of the perfect day, month or life?  It’s a good fit for a vision that says: “I am happily engaged with other people in all my pursuits; I am very active in my community.”  Serving on this committee will give you time to spend with people you like and respect while contributing to your church, which is very important to your life and the fabric of the community.  So, it’s a big YES; you’re happy to serve.

Q: When do you know that it’s time to leave your company because your career ambitions cannot be filled by your current employer?  What if your dream job seems too elusive and out of reach?  

A: Several of my clients indulge in what I call the “yeah, but habit”. I had a recent example where my client said,”Yeah bit, the job of my dreams was just posted, but I’ll never get it because they will want to hire some young kid fresh out of school and not an old guy like me.”  We examined all his “buts” and challenged his limiting beliefs. He learned that his gray hair was actually an asset because he could provide the leadership and vision needed for all those young kids to work toward. We also created strategies for dealing with anything else he perceived as a weakness.  After we prepared enough, he found the courage to apply for the job.

Q: Any tips for nailing a job interview?

A:  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Anticipate any objections or reservations the interviewer may have about your experience or qualifications strategize a response of how you might make up for a deficit, and go in with confidence.  Be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not.  Think of the interview as an opportunity to evaluate the fit of you with the position, not as a measure of your fitness.

Q:  When are instances that your clients have decided to stay put and if so, what are the factors that led them to that decision? Do they seem to have regrets later in making this decision?

There was one senior executive I worked with who talked to her boss about pushing the limits of her position to include more activities she found to be professionally fulfilling.  He agreed that she could push the envelope as long as what she did was in the best interest of the company and he would tell her when she went too far.  Over time, she was able to redefine her role to the point that she found it far more fulfilling.

Others may have decided a few months or years later that it really is well past time to move on.  It takes some real energy go break inertia and get out of a rut. Sometimes that means getting to the point where staying put in the familiar – the devil you know  – is more painful than the fear you have of taking the risk and trying something new.  If you can’t find ways to use your talents and passions to make a meaningful contribution where you are, it may be time to take a leap of faith into a new opportunity to do just that. I wrote a blog post called “bungee jumping” when I described the scary, exhilarating experience of leaving my own job as a senior vice president in a prestigious organization to go out on my own and pursue my passion for coaching, teaching and consulting full time.  And I’ve never looked back.


Q:  How can your business plan help when unexpected (death in family) or even planned life changes (baby) happen? How do you adjust? How would you use your life plan to make a decision?

A: When you know you what your mission, or purpose is, and you have a clear vision of what a successful life and career looks like for you, you can evaluate whether you can fulfill that vision with your current employer.  These kinds of events are a natural time to step back and take stock of whether you can achieve your personal and professional goals where you are or whether you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Q: How do we stick to the strategy? What if we change? 

Put a recurring appointment in your calendar and keep checking to make sure your goals are current and leading you where you really want to go. Revise it regularly to accommodate changes in your life as you learn and grow.

Q: Should we set time limits on things?

A: It’s a good idea to set SMART goals as we discussed on air.

Q: How often should you revise the strategy?

A: As we discussed on air, it depends on the context.

Q: Does Allison have an online workshop?

A:  Not yet!

Q:  Is this a business plan for life?

A:  It could be for life, could be for a day, or a project. The methodology can work for anything. Listen to interview for full answer.

Q:  How often should you rethink things? How many years should one plan for?  What if we don’t meet the plan in the time allotted time? 

A: Allow more time and review your strategy to see why you didn’t achieve your goal in the allotted time.  What can you learn from that so you can redirect your efforts in a more effective direction? Listen to interview for full answer.

Q: Is this like New Year’s resolutions?  

A: Nope, it’s much more comprehensive than that. But I highly recommend Don’t just make a resolution – set a goal and make it SMART

Q:  How do you figure what your mission in life is?  How do you find your purpose in life? How many strategies should you have at once? How do you set up your plan? What if you dont know how to start this process?

A: The book offers 8 steps that will guide you setting up and starting the process to create a life plan.  The book includes several exercises in each step, one of the sections includes finding your find your purpose/mission in life.  Listen on air for details.

Q:  How do you recognize the self sabotage things?

A:  Are you reaching your goals and living the life you want to lead? If not, examine your actions and see whether they are taking your toward your vision of what you want or leading you in another direction.  The give yourself a good hard look in the mirror and ask why you’re getting in your own way. Then hire a coach, like CJ or me to coach you out of it! 🙂

CJ’s Answers:

Q:  What if what you love isn’t what you are here to do?  

A:  One’s path in life is a mysterious thing.  You may start off doing something that you don’t love but feel you need to do regardless and it’s what you are here to do.  Eventually, many people are led to the thing you love doing.  I’ve found with my clients that when and whether you pursue the thing you love depends on how driven you are, your financial and family obligations, the level of risk you feel comfortable,  and how much fear factors into the equation.

It’s all about timing.  With one client it happened over time.  My client started off doing a high paying corporate job in PR and took art classes on the side.  Within a few years,  she quit her job to pursue art not knowing where it would lead her, and did PR consulting gigs on the side to subsidize her art and make ends meet with about a 50-50 split between art/consulting.  Over time (6 years) as she has built a client base for her art and through lots of trial and error she has a business plan for her art.  Now, 80% of her energy is spent on the art and 20% on PR.   The key is to not give up hope and to step-by-step moving toward the things you love.  How big of a step you take is up to you and your propensity toward risk.  For example, another client waited till he retired to do the thing he loved (sustainable farming).

Q: How many strategies should you have at once?

A:  This really depends on the context.  There is no hard and fast rule.  But, based on my experience you need at least 2-3 for most simple kind of goals because there are many ways to achieve a goal.  For example, let’s say you are trying to lose 10 lbs in a month and you had one strategy (exercise).  Well, what happens if after two weeks you still aren’t your goal?  If you had 3 strategies: Exercise, Diet, and Fasting, then you’d have other things to try.  Let’s say you have the goal of finding a new job that will increase your salary by 30%.  This is a far more complicated process with each strategy taking a lot of time.  In this case, you may only want 1-2 strategies.

Q:  How do you set up your plan?

A:  I’ve found 2 ways that seem to work for clients.  The most linear process is to start with your vision or mission first.  However, this often is the most emotionally daunting process because you are tackling are biggest metaphysical questions (Who am I? What am I here to do? ).  If that is the case, then it may be useful to start with some easier pieces to kick start the process. It’s better to take small easy steps forward if you find yourself stymied.  There are a few exercises I suggest, such as look at your values, or do a personality test.  These are lighter weight; less scary things to do that will help you kick start the planning process and gradually lead you to more challenging exercises like your mission. I’ll be offering a free online video series on how to do this.

Q:  What if you don’t know how to start this process? 

A:  Allison’s book is a great way to start.  For some, starting any process like this can be scary.  So, start where you feel comfortable.  Some easy things to try are to first shift the way you do things (e.g.- change way you drive to work, walk up a different street, wear a different color). As you shift your activities, your mind shifts, and you will be open to more opportunities that you haven’t seen in your normal state of looking at things.   Next, start getting back into your heart.  Often the heart is where your passion lies, and where as a society we are cut off from the heart’s wisdom.  Start exercising this muscle.  Start with just doing stuff you love. Anything (take a walk in nature, meet a friend for coffee, etc).  Think of a battery that has run out of juice.  You want to grab your cables and add some juice to enliven your heart.  These are good warm-up exercises if you feel resistant to start.

Allison Rimm is a management consultant, executive coach, and educator who inspires individuals and organizational leaders to create breathtaking visions and plans to bring them to life. She is the former senior vice president for Strategic Planning and Information Management at Massachusetts General Hospital and is now at the helm of Allison Rimm and Associates. She shares her insights and experiences through her Joy Strategies blog and articles for Harvard Business Review and WBUR’s Cognoscenti. Follow her on Twitter @allisonrimm.
CJ Liu is a career, and business coach, who helps you back to the A-B-C’s in life. Aligning your priorities to your actions, Balancing competing priorities, and Clarity in your goals so that you can have more:• Purpose: Feel that your work matters and you are contributing at the highest level of your potential while still honoring your family commitments.  Planning: See a clear sense of where to go, what to do next, and make continual progress toward your goal.  Peace: Know deep inside that you are the creator of your own life and can live it without compromising the highest good for yourself, your loved ones, or others.  Check out:

About our Guest

allison rimmAllison Rimm is an author, consultant, coach, and strategic planning expert who inspires individuals and organizational leaders to create breathtaking visions and practical plans to make them come to life. The former Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Information Management at Massachusetts General Hospital, she engages the hearts and minds of her clients to drive performance and create teams joyfully committed to their collective missions.     In her book, The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life, Allison presents eight practical steps to help readers find their purpose, set priorities, and fulfill even their most elusive goals. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review. A sought-after speaker, Allison presents on topics related to strategic planning, workplace engagement, and leadership development.



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