THE BLOG
11/26/2013 06:52 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

To Plan or Not to Plan

It is said that if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. This adage is the foundation for strategic planning for our clients, a process typically underway during fourth quarter each year. Not only do we plan for the following year, but we update long term plans accordingly, while evaluating what worked and what we need to change. It is an important exercise as we set forth objectives, strategies and tactics to help our clients meet their goals.

As a business owner and alumna of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, I certainly embrace the need for planning, for it is by setting a direction for the future of the company that we grow and hopefully thrive. Without planning for the future, we are likely to fall prey to complacency, causing our businesses to deteriorate.

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But can this same notion of planning be applied to our own lives? Recently a 20-something PR professional scheduled a meeting with me to discuss her future. She was to be married in a few weeks and wanted to be sure she had all the building blocks in place to set forth on a long and happy life, both personally and professionally. She was so intent on the planning process that she had mapped out milestones for five and ten year increments, taking her well into retirement. Her plan included working in a PR agency for some time, honing existing skills and learning new ones, acquiring certifications, being recognized for her achievements with awards, expanding her vertical experience to include other industries, rising to leadership positions in both industry and civic organizations, and being promoted to higher levels of authority.

Personal plans included having a family and dealing with the whole family-work balance women seem to struggle with. Her entire life was tucked neatly in a package and tied with a bow.

While I applaud her foresight and diligence, I asked her what her plan were if there were surprises along the way. The very essence of life, I explained, is that one must expect the unexpected. The best plan is to arm oneself with the tools to manage whatever hand life deals you, be it an amazing opportunity or a solemn hardship.

Just what are some of those unmeasurable tools that should be woven into plans?

•Maintain integrity in everything you do. The respect you have for others and how you treat them is the foundation of your reputation.

•Stay smart, current and relevant. Being a life-long learner will prepare you for most any circumstance.

•Identify a mentor or even a life coach. Meet regularly and take advantage of her counsel.

•Ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

•Be loyal and faithful to your family, friends and colleagues. It is they who will help get you through the hard times and who will stand with you in times of celebration.

•Give back. Identify a cause. Volunteer. Help others. You will find that you receive much more than you give.

•Have passion in your life, whether through your career, community efforts or everyday life.

•And do plan, but not at the expense of not enjoying life. Plans are made to be living documents, serving as a compass. Be able to zig and zag, change tacks and even choose the road less traveled.

And by the way, since our talk a few months ago, the 20 something bought a house, got married, received a prestigious award and followed a new opportunity which was not in her original plan.

Betsie graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.