If you are in business, you plan. You work a plan in order to meet the goals of your position and your organization. Personally, you probably plan vacations. You make meal plans and follow recipes. Hopefully you have a budget and financial plan. If you are a runner like me, you probably have meticulously planned out your race calendar with a couple of big goal races, smaller races, and have built a training plan for the season, or maybe the entire year, around it.
But do you have a life plan? You probably have a vision of what your ideal life looks like “somewhere down the road,” but are you planning for it? Or are you simply living one day at a time figuring that everything will just fall into place? Once in awhile we get lucky and we do wind up where we want to be. More often than not though, we find ourselves at a crossroads and unprepared.
We talked about starting a training plan in January (The Plan, January 31) and goal setting and planning back in March: Living (and running) SMART (March 9) and Let Me Be Me (March 24). In the latter, I discussed the boys running group Let Me Run that I was coaching and one lesson centering around the idea that a goal without a plan is just a dream. I explained that “the boys, ranging in age from 10-12, were quick to point out that achieving a goal requires action, and it was difficult to act without a plan.”
You really need some sort of plan to accomplish anything. Even kids understand the basic concept of why planning is important. If you need more motivation than that, here are a few more detailed reasons why you need a plan for a better life.
Accountability and progress
Life Plans work toward big picture goals. We won’t know we’ve gotten there, if we don’t know where we’re going. Or where we’ve been. When we have a plan, we are able to track progress, and most importantly, hold ourselves accountable to stick to the plan.
Accomplishing goals usually includes completing a variety of small tasks – the steps we need to climb to get closer to the goal. Planning maps out the route we need to take and the estimated time it will take to achieve each step so we can realistically set ourselves up for success. Seeing progress toward our goals keeps us motivated.
When we don’t plan, we let fate take control, we allow others to make decisions that affect us. In creating a plan we take responsibility for ourselves and take control of creating the life we want. As I’ve said before, life is a series of choices; without planning however, our choices can feel much more limited.
It’s unrealistic to believe that we can get everything we want. But by creating a plan and sharing it with the people important to us, the chance of getting what we want improves. And when we need the support of others and want to include others in our lives, planning and communicating that plan is imperative.
Priorities aligned with values
The act of planning allows us to consider our choices better. Are we doing what really matters to us? What’s most important? Through conscious planning, we can see how our long-range plans will affect family life. Or if we know we value opportunities to travel, we may need to make choices about our careers that give us the flexibility and financial resources to do so.
In my non-profit career, I was constantly re-evaluating our plan and prioritizing the activities that best supported the organization’s mission and values. That is something we should all be doing.
Better management of resources
Planning saves time and effort toward achieving a goal. Without a plan, we will spend too much time figuring it out as we’re going along, taking inefficient steps, or performing unnecessary tasks. A plan ensures we are taking all the right steps and doing them in the right order. Having a plan is like following GPS. It’s always good to know where you are and how far you need to go and where the traffic is. That helps you make good decisions about tweaking the route to avoid delays.
Planning allows us to be thoughtful in mapping out our goals, and the activities needed to achieve them. Especially when we are often telling ourselves we don’t have time to accomplish important tasks, planning gives us the opportunity to evaluate how we are spending our time. We can then make more conscious choices (perhaps being more mindful of the time we are spending on social media for example). A plan also helps us determine if we have the resources (time, money, skills/education) we need.
Having a plan (and sticking to it!) forces us to communicate. As I already said, planning and communicating that plan to the important people in our lives is imperative. Let’s face it; we can’t do life alone. We need the support – and often cooperation – of our families, friends, and others.
Sometimes those conversations can be difficult, especially when our plans don’t include others. We hate being out of our comfort zones. So we procrastinate and avoid them. Having a plan prepares us better for those conversations. We can be more thoughtful in what we say and how we respond to other’s reactions. We can be more focused on facts and less emotional.
Peace of mind and fewer regrets
Having a plan, in it’s simplest form, makes sure we are where need to be, on time, and dressed properly with all the right stuff. A life plan is all that and more. Having anxiety sucks. Planning eases anxiety and sets us up to be successful.
Having a plan increases our chances of doing what we set out to do and lessens regret about wasted time or snap decisions. Life is short. We know this. So why do we procrastinate? Laziness? Fear? Not having a plan is the riskiest thing we can do.
Don’t assume life will all work out on it’s own to your liking. Make things happen. Plan. And set that plan in motion – now. Don’t wait for the lifeguard to save you; learn to swim!
Montauk, New York. June 2017.
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