‘Luck’ is where preparation and opportunity intersect.

Are you actively moving toward your goals, or are you waiting for divine intervention? When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to get ready to compete at the highest level. The day of the big game isn’t the time the coach begins to prepare the team.

In order to achieve your goals, you must have a plan and put that plan into action. The following are five areas where most people share goals, yet few achieve their highest potential:

1) High School: For some students, the goal is to get through high school, get a job and get on with life. That may get you in the door of the workplace, but continued success (higher wages) is typically achieved by those with the greatest skills. Skills can be learned on the job, but many occupations require advanced training or education to even compete for positions with increased responsibilities.

The mindset of ‘just getting through’ focuses on getting to the end (graduation day) instead of focusing on the skills to be learned while attending school. Consider your life as a savings account at your credit union. If you don’t put anything in, there is nothing to draw out. Conversely, if you make many deposits by learning new skills, you will be able to draw upon those skills for years to come.

One of the most unfortunate perceptions about school is that we mistakenly think we are there because our parents say we have to be, or because the law requires us to be there. It isn’t until later in life that we realize school was actually for our benefit. Don’t be one who realizes at 25, 35 or 45 that you must delay your dreams because you don’t have the skills to compete.

The condensed version of the above is to recognize as soon as possible that school and other training is for your benefit. Set out to do all you can and to learn all you can. You will not only be establishing habits and patterns of excellence that will follow you throughout life; but you will also be gaining the skills to succeed in life at an earlier age. Conversely, you can certainly choose to do the minimum. After all, the one who will suffer in the long run is you.

2) Job Promotions: Most people want the pay that goes along with a promotion, but not everyone is willing to prepare themselves to successfully compete for that job. If you aren’t working in your ideal job today, what are you doing to prepare yourself to successfully compete for that job? Learn more about your dream job by taking classes, reading on your own or talking with someone who is currently performing that job. Ask them to suggest ways you could become more competitive when seeking the new job. If you are seeking a promotion at your current workplace, begin by sharing your interest with your supervisor or others in charge of hiring. Let them know what position you are interested in, and offer to help with projects in that area.

3) Job Interviews: Job seekers can greatly increase their likelihood of being hired with even a small amount of effort in advance of the job interview. Find out all you can about the desired position. Review the company’s website. Speak with current employees at the workplace. Ask to schedule a five or ten minute appointment with the person who supervises your desired position or the one who does the hiring. Find out the three most important skills or strengths the employer is looking for in a new employee. Finally, make sure to mention the things you did to prepare at the time of interview. The employer will see that you are motivated and a self-starter. That can only improve your chances of being hired.

4) Physical Fitness: Are you satisfied with your current physical fitness? If not, what is your plan to get to your desired level of fitness? Take small, manageable and measurable steps to start down the path toward your desired fitness goal. Ideally, find a workout partner – someone who is also committed to physical improvement and who will support your self-improvement. Commit to 10 minutes a day, three days a week and build from there. The important part of establishing any new habit is to get started.

5) Religious Convictions: If you have strong religious convictions, what are you doing to more closely match your actions to your stated beliefs? Read or listen to something every day that adds to your understanding of your faith. Join with others to discuss your beliefs and to pass your knowledge on to others. Most of us do at least a little planning for a week-end get away. If your convictions suggest you are heading somewhere for more than a week-end, you may want to spend a little more time packing…

In one, three or five years the only thing that is certain is that one, three or five years will have passed. Whether you have the same skills and level of knowledge in the future is your choice. If you plan to improve any aspect of your life, why not start today. That thing that is on your mind now is a good place to start!