By now many of you have probably heard of the blackouts that spanned the north-eastern US States, Ontario (Canada) and now London, England. I was listening to the radio and heard an official talking about emergency situations and how these situations could and should be dealt with. He talked about a distinction between Plan and Program. He suggested that currently most governing bodies have an Emergency Plan, and do not have an Emergency Program. Although he quickly mentioned this distinction, I believe a closer look can help us understand the problem, and by comparison, apply it to our personal growth journey.

1. Plans are based on theory; Programs are based on results

The official mentioned how Emergency Plans tend to document policies and procedures. They outline "what-if" scenarios. We need Emergency Programs because they will demonstrate what WILL happen, with whom, when, where, and how fast. Programs will discuss relationships with other parties, and their interdependent roles. In essence, it is not about "what-if", it is about "what-is".

Now, in terms of personal development, think about a goal that you have. Do you have a plan for it's attainment, or do you have a program? Perhaps you have a bunch of "what-if" scenarios - waiting for the right job, waiting for the right contact. Based on your present professional direction, you may "plan" to retire on a given date. Or, you may constantly be on the search. Are you building relationships that will serve your program? Can you see the results of your daily actions serving to fulfill a long-term goal?

2. Plans are dormant; Programs are active

The official on the radio stated that plans are documented and sit on the shelf - only to be looked at in an emergency situation. Programs, on the other hand, are viewed regularly. They are always being practiced and tested. {Mini-Distinction: Practiced=tried/exercised; Tested=Done/Pushed beyond their limits)

Some people have great plans for their lives. They take the time to brainstorm and to write their goals down. That's awesome. But they let these sheets of paper or files in the computer sit dormant. They don't fuel their dreams. They don't check to see if they are still passionate about their dreams. They continue along their "plan", and perhaps they eventually arrive. And then they say "is this all there is?" Personal development programs are not called "personal development plans" for a very good reason. Actively check and test your goals and dreams. See how life has influenced you over the years, and discover where you want to go today.

3. Plans become obsolete; Programs evolve

Documentation that sits on a shelf will inevitably become obsolete. Life changes and the world changes. Programs naturally change and evolve as they are being practiced and tested. Moreover, they become optimized and streamlined for maximum efficiency. Programs that evolve are not only up-to-date, they are the most practical and most easily implemented.

Do you know someone who says, "Yeah, I did a personal development program ten years ago." As Dr. Phil would ask, "And how's that working for you (today)?" It doesn't matter whether the program made a significant difference for us a long time ago. It's important to realize that even personal development programs themselves evolve. They change with the times, they change with the culture, and they change with people. Yes, success principals don't change. But the way in which they are presented, and the way in which people relate to them, understand them, and implement them, certainly changes. Are you stuck in your personal-growth journey? Perhaps it's time to take a good look at your personal "program" and see if it has been evolving with you.

Imagine if we're doing a treasure hunt on an island. We're given a map that clearly shows us how to get the treasure. Eventually, using our intelligence and wisdom {DoD Vol 1, pg. 89}, we'll find the treasure. Now, imagine that the terrain is constantly changing. Imagine that the island itself is changing form as we're walking. The journey suddenly becomes exponentially difficult. Life is like that. Life is always changing. Difficult circumstances are seldom expected. Having a "plan" may show us how to get somewhere right now. Having a "program" is like having a personal guide who will keep us on the course throughout our journey.

I hope all of you and your families have made it through the blackouts without much difficulty. :)

Author's Bio: 

Danish Ahmed is turning heads in the personal-growth movement by brining the education of the industry down-to-Earth -- by teaching from our popular culture, like television, movies, music, and other current day media. Get a FREE bi-weekly newsletter -- no advertising -- just ordinary words with some extraordinary power! Visit