Contributor: Molly Nolan, NCG Marketing & Program Manager
The end of year annual planning process is in full swing and as always, it’s a very busy, yet, exciting time. It’s an opportunity to think about untapped potential – from new growth plans, team development and Big Rocks to put in place for the new year ahead. At Nolan Consulting Group, we utilize our Cascading Planning Process (CPP), a system that clearly outlines our recommended steps for crafting your annual business journey for effective improvement and vision achievement at all levels in an organization.
An important piece of that CPP and the annual planning process is crafting or updating your Primary Aim, as it helps to set the tone for where YOU, both personally and professionally, want to be at a set point in time in the future. It’s a long term vision (set at 3 or 5 years out) that helps us to better understand how we need to approach the short term vision plans (1 year, 2 years out) and defining what success looks like.
A few months ago, I sat down with Kevin Nolan, CEO of Nolan Painting and Partner at Nolan Consulting Group, for a podcast conversation on what initially started as a Work/Life Balance discussion. Like many of you, Kevin is an entrepreneur and family man, deeply involved in his community and passionate about his variety of hobbies and extracurriculars. With all that Kevin does, I wanted to know – how does he find balance between all the work commitments, life commitments and personal enjoyment?
Not long into the podcast, the conversation organically developed into a discussion of how critical the importance of the Primary Aim plays into this concept. It paints the picture of the intersection between your ideal work and life environment; the Primary Aim is YOUR version of the work/life balance you hope to achieve. It’s now a written guide, a pathway to what you really want and the steps that it will take to get here can be more clearly defined.
Leaving that conversation, Kevin challenged me to write my own personal Primary Aim, a challenge that we, at Nolan Consulting Group, encourage everyone to take on. Primary Aims are not just an exercise for business owners to complete as a part of their annual planning, it’s something that everyone can do! This is about your life and what YOU want!
I have since taken the time to sit down and put my primary aim on paper. It was an intimidating experience at first and don’t be fooled, my procrastination was very real, and it was only after further challenges from my team and another Summit Member, from Webfoot Painting, I knew I had to get it done.
Pushing off things that are uncomfortable is something that I know, by human nature, we’re all too familiar with and this challenge fell right into the bucket.
What I learned, however, was how rewarding and exciting the experience actually was. When you read it out loud to yourself and can visualize the life you aim to be living (whether it be 3 or 5 years into the future), there is so much power and confidence instilled in the choices, decisions and communication steps you need to be taking.
If you’re struggling to put pen to paper or unsure of what you want the future to look like, that is okay! This exercise is designed to help you begin to tap into the core of what makes you happy, what “a really good day” would look like… it’s not asking you to predict the future and then expecting you to live up to that expectation with fear of failure. Elements of your Primary Aim are likely to come to fruition and some things might change – we all know life is about adapting, we’ve experienced it pretty recently first hand.
To start, take small steps …
- Let it process, review the framework of questions to get the wheels turning
- Take notes over a set of time
- Have conversations with those close to you (family, friends, managers, advisors)
- Journal a little bit each day to get grounded in what’s important to you
When you feel like you have some framework of thoughts, it’s time to begin. Just start with what your morning on that future date looks like and see where that takes you. You might be surprised how quickly the words pour onto paper.
A glimpse of how mine started…
Friday, October 2nd, 2026
It’s a beautiful, crisp Fall Friday and I just finished up a nice 5 miler to get my day started. It’s one of those mornings where the air feels cool, but the sun warms you up nicely, can’t be beat!
We’ve got a great weekend ahead, our town’s annual Oktoberfest is on Saturday where we’ll meet up with friends and Sunday will cap off with a Nolan Family Sunday Dinner. We’ve been on a good run of making these dinners happen every other week, rotating houses with my brothers and getting everyone together. My parents soak up these moments, it’s so fun to see them as grandparents with the new little ones around. We’re lucky they live close by and when they are not off traveling the world, are just a 10 minute ride away.
Share your Primary Aim with others close to you and begin to utilize planning tools such as an Individual Development Plan to help craft your direction and the resources you’ll need to tap into to help drive the journey. Also, fun fact: when you share it with others, you’ve automatically created informal accountability partners who will want to help you achieve your vision!
Since that podcast was released, there has been increased interest among many of our clients and NCG Team Members to focus on writing or updating their existing Primary Aims. The sharing has been incredible – from inspiring to emotional and goosebump generating, the visions for the future are looking extremely fulfilling.
Want to Craft YOUR Primary Aim? We’ve included directions for the exercise below. The guiding questions are designed to help you think about all aspects of your future environment. Our recommendation is to start by taking notes and then turn it into a story … A day in life.
Primary Aim Exercise:
It’s time to get intentional! Picture a day 5 years from now…. What is happening in your life? What does the day look like when your business or job is serving you? Write a narrative of that day (pick the date). Consider answering the questions below, and then write your narrative. Incorporate all elements in your life; all your roles and relationships; your physical, financial, spiritual and professional self. Write it in the present tense, as if it is that day in the future.
(Personal, but incorporates your professional life, when work is serving your life)
- What does your morning routine look like?
- What do you want to be doing on a day-to-day basis?
- What would I like to be able to say I truly know in my life, about my life?
- How would I like the relationships to be with other people in my life- my family, friends, my business associates, my customers, my employees, my community?
- How would I like people to think of me?
- What specifically would I like to learn during my life / what do I want to be doing or involved in – spiritually, physically, socially, financially, technically, intellectually?
- What challenges or developments in these areas am I curious to explore?