In personal strategic planning, the first thing you want to think about is increasing your personal ROE (return on energy.) You need to realize that the most essential and valuable thing you bring to your life and work is your ability to think, to act and to get results. Your earning ability, which is a function of your education, knowledge, experience and talents, is your human capital, your “equity.” And the way that you develop your personal skills and use your earning ability will largely determine the quality and quantity of your rewards, both material and psychological, tangible and intangible.

1. Clarify your values. The first part of personal strategic planning is called “values clarification.” Ask yourself “What values and virtues do I most admire and wish to practice in my life?” If you want to discover your strengths and personal skills in the work world, first define your values as they apply to employment. These might be integrity, quality, respect for others, service, profitability, innovation, entrepreneurship, market leadership, and so on. There are dozens of values that you can pick from, but whichever you choose will determine your approach to your work.

2. Create your personal mission statement. Your next step is to create a clear, written description of the person you intend to be in your work life. I have often found that this is even more important than setting specific financial or sales goals. Once you have decided how much you want to earn, you need to write out a personal mission statement that describes the kind of person you intend to become in order to earn that amount of money. Stand back and imagine you’re looking at yourself through the eyes of another person. How would you apply yourself to bring about the best results? What could you do to maximize your output, and where would you do it?

3. Perform an audit to strengthen personal skills. The next step is to do what is called a “situational analysis,” also known as a performance audit. This is the process of analyzing yourself thoroughly before you begin setting specific goals and planning certain activities. Begin your performance audit by asking yourself some key questions. One of those questions should be “What are my marketable skills?” What can you do particularly well? What can you do better than others? What have you done particularly well in the past?

4. Determine your area of excellence. Finally, in personal strategic planning the aim is always to achieve leadership in your chosen market niche. Just as a business leader has the authority to determine their business’s area of excellence, on a personal level, you can choose the thing at which you’re going to become excellent and achieve extraordinary results. So, in what areas are you going to work to achieve results that are far beyond what the average person could be expected to accomplish?

You were put on this earth with a special combination of talents, abilities and personal skills that make you different from anyone who has ever lived. Whatever you’re able to do today, it’s nowhere near what you’re really capable of. The key to a happy and prosperous life is to regularly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, become very good in the areas you most enjoy and throw your whole heart into what you’re doing.

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Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, which specializes in business training, and the author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement. For more information, go to www.briantracy.com.