1.5 How? How can you make an action plan and achieve your goals?

how to make action plan and set goals

The importance of having a plan to achieve your goals

 “If you can dream it, you can do it.” 

Walt Disney

It may be that ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’, but if you want the best chance of successfully achieving your goals and dreams then you are going to need some sort of action plan.

What diffusing bombs taught me about planning

I learned a lot about making effective plans while serving in the military, particularly while working as a Bomb Disposal Officer. Being able to make a viable plan to successfully achieve your goal was a vital skill if you wanted to stay in one piece!

It was through this experience that I developed the idea of using interrogative words (why, where, what, which, how, who, when) as prompts to the planning and decision-making process, in what was to become ‘The Right Questions Framework’. 

It is this proven framework that this coaching course follows and that is also used in the planning process outlined below. But before we get onto that, here is a little more on goal setting and planning in general.

The Importance of goal setting

A goal is something you want to achieve. It could be a personal ambition or a group objective. It is an idea that you envision and then plan and commit to fulfilling.

The process of setting goals helps us psychologically to encapsulate an idea and commit us to action. Working towards a goal gives us the feeling of positive forward movement.

It also helps practically as setting goals allows us to quantify our end-state and qualify our success. Having a set goal allows us to measure our progress and reflect and learn as we work towards it.

Setting goals allows us to know when we have succeeded in something and provides the opportunity to celebrate when we achieve the goal.

The Importance of Plans

Whether you are an individual thinking about a career change or personal development, a team undertaking an innovative project, or a large organisation rolling out a new strategy you will need a plan of some sort.

Action plans do not need to be overly complicated. For example, at the simplest level, to-do lists and shopping lists can be crude but effective action plans.

If you are an individual aiming to achieve a simple goal such as going on holiday the details of the plan will, of course, be very different to a large multinational corporation making an action plan for launching their next product. But despite this, the initial questions that you need to ask are very similar.

Exercise: The Right Questions approach to planning 

To create your action plan and achieve your goals you just need to follow the steps in The Right Questions process:

1. Ask yourself why do you want to do the thing you are thinking about? 

Asking why helps to work out what you value and what motivates you.

2. Work out where is your ultimate destination or your dream?

Thinking about where you want to be in the long term is your vision. This is your dream of a better future.

3. Define what your overall mission is and what success looks like.

Now that you have captured your vision you can define what success actually means in terms of fulfilling that dream. This mission statement is the overarching big audacious goal that you want to achieve.

4. Think about which ways you could achieve success and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option. 

There are different routes you can take to your preferred future. Which one seems the best? Think about what the risks might be and what advantages and disadvantages there are to each option. Then you can work out what you believe to be the best option to choose.

5. Pick your preferred goal and work out how you are going to achieve the goal. 

Now that you have considered the options and picked your favourite you can start to plan how you are going to achieve it. Think about: What are the steps you need to take? What resources might you need? 

6. Break the goal down into steps, noting who can help you.

You don’t have to do everything on your own, even if this is a personal plan rather than a group one. As you break down the goal into steps think about who might be able to assist you or give you advice.

7. Schedule the individual steps into your diary to define when you will achieve them.

Now that you have a list of steps you can put them into your diary. I tend to keep my list of goals and steps on my phone then prioritise them and put the most important next steps straight into my diary. A step should be easily achievable, something you can do in minutes or at most hours. The one most important thing you need to do should be the next thing in your diary, even if that’s a simple 5-minute task such as making a phone call.

 “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” 


Action: Create your own action plan

Now that you have an idea of the questions you need to ask, you can start answering them for yourself. To help you I have created a simple action plan template that you can download or use. If you prefer you copy into your notebook or adapt as you see fit.

Reflection Question: So what is the first thing you need to do to take you closer to achieving your goal?

Once you have worked it out, do it, or make sure it is in the calendar to do as soon as possible.

I wish you all the best in achieving your goals! 

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

Tony Robbins

Further resources

Read this article/post:

Explore more about The Right Questions and how to apply them:

Watch this video:

Should you tell everyone your goals? Here are some challenging thoughts on the subject:

Read this book:

Taming Tigers’ is the inspiring story of how Jim Lawless worked out how to change dreams into reality: