Dream into Action
“A dream without a plan is just a wish.” – Katherine Paterson
Are you just wishing for success or are you actually making things happen? A dream without a plan is just a wish. In other words, every goal you have needs to have an action plan. Contrary to my type A tendencies, planning was a skill I had to build over time. This skill may be easier to learn than you think. The Huffington Post reported that if you simply write your goals down on a piece of paper “you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams.” Those are some pretty good odds!
Let us focus on some of my favorite recommendations to make your personal, career, and fraternity/sorority goals a reality.
1. Let yourself Dream
Dream Big. You cannot have an action plan without the dream. Start by allowing for a free-flowing, open discussion. This can be done alone in your head or with your entire chapter. The important part to brainstorming is to do so without barriers. If you are doing this in a group setting, allow members to voice their thoughts without regard to logistics, financials, or rationale. You want a large new member class? Okay, then how are we going to get that? You will get members saying table on campus more, make a recruitment video, but you will also get some crazy ideas too. Leave the negative feedback and “we cannot do that” for later when you filter the ideas in the next step.
2. Put all your ideas down on paper (good, bad, and crazy!)
Once you have all your ideas, the good, bad, and crazy; you need to prioritize. Prioritize tasks that are important and practical. Then, brainstorm who can help you achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is to fundraise $1,000 for your philanthropy, then you should expand on opportunities to: request donations from local businesses, host an event, table on campus, have a garage sale, etc. Let us say you want to focus on donations from local businesses, then your priorities should be: drafting a formal letter, sorting through potential businesses, and training your members on how to make “the ask.” Putting this down on paper will help you see all the tasks or “mini goals” that go into your main goal.
3. Make a plan of action
This does not have to be a formal document. I find most action plans come in the form of meeting agendas. If your general membership meetings do not have agendas, it is a good idea to start sending them out prior to your meetings. When it comes to big goals that your entire chapter is undertaking, it is especially important that every member feels included. Assuming you have meeting agendas, make sure you include a timeline or “due date” for each agenda item. Also, have a blank space where you can write the name of whoever is assigned to that task. I find the biggest errors come from people verbally agreeing, but mysteriously forgetting what they committed to. This written form (hopefully you have someone to take minutes) will hold everyone accountable.
4. Track progress
This is probably the hardest step to complete. It is much easier to get people on board with your action plan when it is fresh in their minds. So, how do you keep members engaged and committed to their tasks? Well, you track their progress. This can sometimes be uncomfortable because we may have to tell our fellow members to step up their contributions. That is never an easy conversation to have, but I have found it helps to bring them back to the big goal. Remind them what they are working towards and how it impacts their experience in the chapter.
With all that in mind, I want to also mention the importance of imperfection. Big dreams are hard to accomplish for a reason, they are big! Mistakes are bound to happen. Do not get caught off guard; plan more time than you need for each task or due date. Lastly, do not get too worked up over the plan itself that you lose sight of the dream. One of the greatest qualities of a leader is knowing when and how to adapt to change. People will make mistakes and plans will change. Everyone is a young, rising professional that is learning the ropes. Keep your eyes on the prize, but remember that it is college, have fun!