There are those who plan and those who let the universe move toward them. There are those who plan and those who live in the moment.
When my coaching clients asked for help in making some long-term, five-year plans, it piqued my interest. Who could plan five years ahead? Too much uncertainty for planning. Five years ago (2012), I had no idea I would move from a suburb to downtown, no idea my brother would die, no idea a business deal I made to help a friend would turn profitable. So why plan?
- To understand a timeline. Plans need to fit in a certain order. If your goal is to complete a marathon, your first step is not to register for a marathon, it’s to evaluate your health and see if you can manage the training. Training for a marathon is beneficial, even if you don’t choose to compete. Competing is beneficial, even if you don’t cross the finish line.
- To figure out how long things take. A requirement for the certification program I am in requires 120 hours of work in the chosen focus area. It’s pretty easy to think that’s just three weeks of a 40-hour week. But when you begin to understand that it includes creating an audience, writing programs and retreats, finding places to hold them, finding locations that might sponsor a class or retreat you have a completely different amount of hours. When I did the math, I came up with about 600 hours of research, prep, marketing, and delivery. Now we are talking almost four months of work. That’s a big difference.
- To know what you want. There is a retreat I want to take. It’s expensive, so I have to plan for it. I’ve never really asked myself why I want to go on that retreat. When I saw the month it was in (one of my busy ones) and how much it costs (more than is in my sofa cushions), I began to puzzle out the magic this retreat held for me. The answer was interesting–it was the only one I had seen in which a certain skill was taught. Then I began to look around and found the same skill taught at a different location (closer) and not quite as expensive. Then I found a one-day local class that would give me a taste of this skill. Yep, just what I wanted. Now I’m ready to take a longer class. If I love that, then I can make time for the expensive class and save up for it.
Planning has a tricky side. Life happens. Not always the way you plan. But the planning itself has benefits, including creating work-arounds for disasters, taking advantage of opportunities, and knowing what you want and how long it will realistically take to get it. That makes planning worthwhile, even if it doesn’t all pan out the way you wanted it.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing.