Life Plan. Have you got one? Most of us haven’t.
We probably have some ideas about what we want out of life and what we want our lives to be like. But what turns dreams into practical reality is a life plan. Man.
If we don’t take charge of our lives, they risk running through our fingers. And if we are not the one’s in the directors’ chair for our life story, then who is? Our parents? Partner? Our dangerously innovative inner 3-year old?
But Life Planning has got a bad rap of late. Even amongst career experts population.
Instead of a life plan being an opportunity to design and explore, in a conscious way, how we spend this miraculous opportunity of existence that we call life, it has become all linear and thrusting and about ‘5-year plans’ and getting more, having more, doing more.
I’d like to invite us to reposition the humble life plan. As an opportunity. To paint a picture of the future as we would hope it to be. And then to gently set our course toward inhabiting that future.
Most of my clients tell me that they believe there is more to life than what’s currently going on.
They tell me that they want out from the full-on burn out job, they tell me they want to wear clothes, not uniform to work, they tell me they want to be involved in something that matters, that they want to feel more free, that they want work that works around their family.
They tell me they would like to learn a new language, spend more time with their loved ones, recapture the romance, move back home, take the next step up the career ladder…
Only, they don’t know how to get there. So they don’t begin.
And when they get miffed, confused, tired and overwhelmed, they call me and together we work it out.
An Education In Life.
One of the reasons that life planning and life or career change is so challenging has to do with the education we received. I am willing to bet Fat Brian’s collection of Dreamies that your curriculum at school did not include how to navigate risk, how to define what you want out of live, how to make a good decision and devise a plan to turn your dreams into experiences. Many of my clients have been educated to all sorts of high levels and yet many of us lack this key set of skills for navigating a change to an aspect of our work, life or career.
A life plan takes an idea and puts it into action; gives focus and clarity.
Fortunately, I wrote a book about it.
Let me tell you a little bit about my method.
First, know what you want.
This may be very easy. You may already have a clear idea of what you want to do more of or what you long to let go of. Yet for many of us, there isn’t some clear, shining star on out there for us to follow, there’s just a sense of needing move on and move forward. So here is the question I would like you to rest into for a while…
1. “What experience are you looking for?”
Not what job or how much money or does he have a six pack, but really, what do you want to experience as a result of the changes you are thinking about.
Do you want to have more time and more peace? Do you long to feel more alive or more creative? I think that behind every thrusting goal, there is an experience. You may want a Ferrari, but perhaps there is something about the experience of the Ferrari that is what you really want. Perhaps speed, excitement, status, maybe you love hanging out in garages…
And if you are someone who doesn’t really feel like they have clarity about what they want in life, this is such a good exercise for you too. Come on, sit down and let’s consider…
So take a moment to paint the picture in your mind. How do you want to feel? Physically, mentally and emotionally? What kinds of people and places do you want to surround yourself with? How do you want to feel about yourself, your life or your work?
Now we have a place to begin planning from that is truly exciting.
2. Second, let go of what you want…
Bear with me. Your Life Plan method requires this. That you get super clear about what you want to experience. That you go for it hell for leather. And then you completely accept what results. We usually want good stuff to happen right? We usually want things to work out. But they don’t always. Yet in order to strive toward making what you want to experience real, you have to embrace the spectrum of possibilities that says you might not get it.
In my book, I share the story my friend Max Fraser told me. Max or Maxi, as he is more commonly known, is the front man for a band called Faithless, who had and still have, a huge following on the dance music scene? But it wasn’t always that way. Max had always loved music, but he spent 20 years as an engineer for BT, trudging his decks up and down his stairwell every Saturday evening to create a riot on the dance floor. It took quite some time for a chance meeting to create Faithless. So we need passion, determination, commitment and patience. We need to be ready to hit the ground with a bump and get up and start again.
Look, if even Elon Musk went bust several times before Tesla, surely you and I are allowed a meandering road toward our happiness, goal or cause?
3. So how do we adopt the mindset that says ‘Give 100% but don’t be attached to the result?’ Easy peasy. We see the journey as its’ own reward.
When we embrace the idea that we are at the heart of our own life story, caught in the great mystery of existence, in the flow of life, we can learn to embrace the uncertainty of that reality and honour the journey we are on.
I miscarried this year. We really wanted to have a child. It was totally rotten. I have no idea if it will be possible for me to have a baby, but we keep on following the course with commitment, heart and lots of horizontal boogies.
The journey has taken us as a couple to dark places, to vulnerability, to frustration, to commitment and to trusting the process. I might not like this life curriculum on the journey to parenthood, but I accept it fully and wherever we end up, we end up.
So to planning itself. And tool four.
4. Where you look is where you go.
I describe a special way of planning in my book. It’s called The Birds Eye View and The Worms Eye View.
Let me explain.
See to head in the right direction we need to be looking toward what we want. The tool of defining what you want to experience helps you to focus on that. Not on what we resent or what we don’t want or why we feel trapped but on the horizon ahead – because where we look is where we tend to go.
So that is the big picture, the blue sky, the Bird’s Eye View.
Yet to make progress toward this goal we have to also look down at our feet. At the ground. At the next small step, we can take to get us there. I call this the Worm’s Eye View.
So how do we marry the two? We make a life plan.
5. But my form of life plan uses your special superpower. That is the power of your imagination.
So instead of us having to think about all the stepping stones that would take us from right now to the horizon on the future, we imagine what it would be like if we had already got there. We tell the story to ourselves as though that were already accomplished. And then we work backwards from our objective, to the moment of now. That is, we take the birds eye view and we turn it into a worm’s eye view.
Say you want to make a career change. Or you have a particular career goal – like becoming qualified in a specialist area.
# At the top of the worksheet you would insert the goal – By December 2018 I want to be a qualified project manager.
# Then you think, so, if this was a history, rather than a plan, what do I think I did just before I qualified?
# To which the answer is probably – ‘took the exam’ or ‘opened my results’.So that goes in the section just below the goal.
# Then we imagine, so what did I do the day before the exam? Well, I probably did my last bits of revision. Ok, so you pop that in.
# Then a month before I got there? Probably I was stuck in the course.
# Three months before? I began the training.
# So then, what could I do in the next month to get me started? What could I do next week and what could I do today?
Usually, these today actions involve simple tasks like a bit of Internet research or a chat with someone or a visit to somewhere fun – small actions that get the ball rolling. This is the worm’s eye view.
This is how we build a simple but powerful life plan. We start with a vision of the end of objective and we use our imagination to show us how we got there as though it were already achieved. And then we take the very first step and keep taking steps.
ALERT ALERT ALERT: No plan ever survives contact with the enemy!
By this I mean, your plan, well…. How can I put this… It probably won’t go to plan!
Usually, once we get started, things change. This is because we change, we learn new things, and we meet new people. Sometimes things are faster or slower than we thought. Sometimes life decides for us. So you need to allow a little flexibility to creep in there, so you can bend and sway like the trees without cracking at the first sign of deviation!
And yet, like Max, you need to persevere. Because if you have seen yourself performing to a dazzling crowd of thousands, it is important that you take the journey to get there.
Whether you end up playing Wembley or not, the journey toward your life plan is its own reward. You are in the process of telling a great story. The greatest of stories. The story of your life. And by focusing on what we want to experience and who we want to be, we can only grow in positive ways.