American Businessman, Albert Humphrey devised the SWOT technique while working for the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960’s. It helps organizations with strategic planning for their projects. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities & Threats. When I stumbled upon this information, I thought it was an awesome tool for planning projects. However, I didn’t think it should be used exclusively in business.
I mean c’mon, what bigger project is there than a life? What feat is bigger than taking a flawed individual, with entrenched emotional biases, raised in an environment that was chosen for them, facing distractions and detours in every direction, haunted by their deepest fears, and obligated to the opinions of others? If there was ever a need to plan is would be to plan a life.
We have all heard that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This chart helps me to get clarity. Whenever things get a little foggy, I don’t SWEAT. I call in the SWOT. The wonderful thing is you can whip this chart out at any stage or crossroad of your life. You will get rid of the confusion that held you captive just moments before.
The chart helps you to identify four elements in your life.
- The internal factors: A great deal of your success or failure in life depends on who you are on the inside
- The external factors: Still, we recognize the full outcome of your life is a result of how you respond to the world around you
- Things that are helpful to your progress: A person place or thing can either be fuel to your fire
- Things that are harmful to your progress: A person place or thing can be the water to your fire
These four elements are discovered by identifying your:
- Strengths – What are you good at? What are you great at? The things you do the best are your greatest assets. Take time to search yourself to find your strengths. Know that sometimes your strength is sometimes hidden beneath the clutter of things you have been doing or thing you had to do just to survive. Spend 80% of your time working on and defining your strengths.
- Weaknesses – What wears you out? What throws you off your horse? What kicks you in the shin? Your weaknesses are those little goblins that steal effectiveness and focus from your life. Your greatest tool in identifying you weakness is honesty. Be honest with yourself and track you life over the past 30 days to spot the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, habits, actions, places, and even people who have held you back one way or another. Spend 20% of your time removing or minimizing your weaknesses.
- Opportunities – They pop up all around us, unannounced, and we better be ready for them. List all of the possibilities you have before you. Everything from asking a friend to get your foot in the door with one of their contacts, to striking up a conversation with that investment banker who waits on the same hot dog line with you every afternoon. Examine each fortuity, starting from the favorable circumstances that were always right under your nose, and working your way through to the opportunities for which you have to do some foot work.
- Threats – Get scared. Get really scared! Your threats are the areas where things like market trends, consumer confidence, and other people’s perception of you come into play. This is the area where you have to be the most accurate. All of these hazards can devour even your best efforts if you do not prepare properly. It’s like securing all the sponsors and visitors for your outdoor event. You did everything within your power to prepare for the televised affair. All of a sudden, clouds form and rain drenches the hundreds of visitors who came to have a good time. Everything is ruined. In planning, you would have listed rain as the threat. They are the factors in your life that you cannot control (along with opportunities) the best you can do is be as accurately prepared to address them as they arise.
Plan for a great life. Make it shine the way it was meant to. Take charge of the elements of the SWOT analysis and put yourself in a place of clarity, awareness, renewal, and purpose.