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Go SWOT Yourself

20 April 2022

There are typically two occasions when people throw themselves into planning for personal development – the first is when we hit “rock bottom” and the combination of overwhelming frustration and sheer necessity drives us to put a plan in place. The other is when we experience intense motivation from being in a really healthy and confident position.

One might look at this and suggest that it’s when we’re at either the base or the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Whichever way we look at it, at SFP, we’ve found that it’s much healthier to live in a balanced and intentional space that doesn’t rely on us hitting our lowest lows or highest highs to engage with our life and financial plan.

There’s a great tool called the SWOT analysis that managers often use when beginning to chart a new course for their company. In short, it is a strategic planning and management technique to help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to our current position and our future desired outcomes. It is sometimes called situational assessment or situational analysis.

It’s not something you have to wait to use until you’re in a senior position at work or sitting in a meeting with your financial adviser or life coach. You can do it right now, in your next power hour or personal growth time. The great thing about this is that it’s a technique for creating a plan; it’s not the plan itself – which means we can apply it to our whole life or focus on specific goals that we’d like to achieve or habits we’d like to overcome or form.

Many of us love to think of goals or dream about our future, but only a few of us put a plan in place to make that vision a reality. SWOT is a great process to help you put that plan in place. Here are five things that you can sit down and do to get the ball rolling.

  1. Identify the goal, habit, relationship or lifestyle choice that you’d like to achieve.
  2. Then, like a list of pros and cons, focus on your strengths (or quickly develop) to make this goal achievable. On the opposite side, write down the weaknesses that might hold you back. In this process, you might find that you can identify skills or traits that could be both a strength and a weakness – this is quite normal. This is helpful because it reminds us how important our mindset is.
  3. Next, you can spend some time thinking about personal opportunities that could enable you to achieve the goal, and that you will be able to take advantage of when you have achieved it. Opportunities are generally external, relating to the environment and those around you, rather than you yourself.
  4. Identify any threats. These are external things and events that are worrying you, or that might happen and prevent you from achieving your goals.
  5. At this point, take a breather; step back and review and prioritise what you’ve written down. You’ve basically outlined a plan for change and growth; now, you need to connect the dots and draw the lines.

By highlighting one or two things from each of the SWOT areas of analysis, you can choose what you feel is most important to engage with first and plot the journey that makes sense to you. This is an important step because it’s YOUR PLAN, not someone else's.

Whilst this can all be done by yourself, having a coach or adviser engage with you is helpful for objective feedback. Planning at this level is not something you can do weekly, but you can certainly do it quarterly or bi-annually. Having said that, you can check in on your plan weekly to see how easily you can stick to it. If you then want to make changes, it’s easier to know what’s achievable (part of setting SMART goals).

Sanlam Life Insurance is a licensed financial service provider.
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