a personal 10-year plan: the moving parts

10 August 2016

once you’ve decided to do it, to make a place for your vision, the big-picture view of where you’re going and how you plan to get there, you’ll have to zoom in a bit. zoom in to get a detailed view of the different landscapes that make up your life.

in our plan hal and i include sections for relationship; financial; career; artistic; attitude, faith, spirit; physical health; space and infrastructure.

each section contains two parts, one for me and one for hal. each section has a statement, some call it an intention, or a guiding principle. whatever you want to call it. wing it. just write something down for each section, you can always change it… it might be super simple, like ours for financial is “we won’t run out of money.” that’s crazy simple, but kind of huge, too. i remember writing that one down, and it kind of floored me. imagine what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t run out of money! a girl can dream.

anyway, on each section, there’s your big idea for that part of your life, and then there’s a list of things that matter. keep it simple. write down what you can imagine. as an example, i wanted to create a method for keeping track of all the financial details of life. i actually really hate thinking about money, that’s why i’m focusing on it here. tackle the icky stuff, imagine the details of it being easy. (because, you know, it’s easier to do easy things.)

things that matter dearly to me, don’t to hal. he has other things. for instance, for hal infrastructure is really important. i am the lucky beneficiary of his obsession. and then, things that matter dearly to both of us might sit undone for years, while other things that feel less important are getting done. it doesn’t always make sense. but within the context of the plan, things getting done or not getting done isn’t proof of how on top of it you are, or an indictment of what a loser you are. instead, over time, it simply creates a topographic map of what your priorities are.

the plan is a (somewhat) organized box of the stuff of your dreams. a way that you can live life without having to hold it all in your head. An easy way to come back to what matters and adjust course to make it so.

two weeks at the lake. well, on our pond... our conceptual lake is in Montana. Flathead, to be exact. a place where there's enough wind-down and focus and delight that a little boredom slips in, and then a nap, maybe some frustration. Maybe even a little bickering has to go down, but the boredom is a gateway to a shift — to a different well of ideas.

a personal 10-year plan: the bones

21 July 2016

when hal and i started the 10 year plan that took us into our current 10 year plan (i know, i know), one of the most outlandish wishes we had was to have a huge farm on sauvie island, just outside portland, oregon. we wanted to be able to have our studio there, have land where we could go walking with our dog, grow food and flowers, and have a test kitchen/restaurant.

today we live on a dreamy upstate spread. there’s no restaurant, but there are gardens with food and flowers, a well-equipped kitchen, ponds and woods, our studio, trails for walking, porches for working or coffee or both. like in our imaginations, the place is the impetus and the reward.

we got here, we got what we wanted, by starting with the biggest, most absurd picture of our life we could imagine at the time.

and this is where you start: vision.

the nice thing about your vision, if you’re honest with yourself, is that it really doesn’t change that often. think about the things that loop in your imagination, the i’ve-always-wanteds… you kinda always want what you always want. the only discipline i’m going to touch on in this post is that you check in on it. and keep it as big as you can imagine.

when i get teased about having a 10 year plan (and i do!) i think to myself, nobody could argue that having a fertile imagination and the ability to manifest it is a bad thing. and that’s all i’m talking about here. honestly, having a honkin’ huge imagination is very practical.

what do you want? in your wildest dreams, what do you want?

once you are clear enough on that, you set about figuring what it will take to get it, your objectives (some call them goals). the things that are in service of your big, fat, fucking awesome vision. and what stuff will you do to reach those goals? those things you’ll do to get there, those are your tactics. tactics in service of goals which are in service of this gorgeous vision of yours. that’s how it happens — in the practical sense.

together, your vision, objectives, and tactics create the bones of your plan. the structure for the structure of your next decade.

vision is the biggest thing you can imagine. objectives (or goals) are the things that have to happen for that bigger thing to take place. tactics are how you’re going to get it done.

a word to the wise, as you set about creating the structure for your 10 year plan: you can’t possibly do anything wrong. you get to give yourself the freedom to get to know these things as you imagine them. to me that’s the craziest part of what sounds to be so official and overwhelming. a 10-year plan — it’s really all imagination.

you’ll get more and more comfortable thinking bigger and bigger picture. it’s a maturation process, a scale of thinking process. as a person who has done this in my own life and in business, nothing but good comes from teaching yourself about vision, objectives, and tactics.

the bigger your imagination can stretch, the bigger your vision can get, and the more specific you can get in your tactics. at first it can all seem tumbled together. but make the imagination space for what you want, and then watch as extraordinary things fall into place to make it happen.

next week we’ll look at how to arrange the topography of your plan. and i’ve included a link to a document you can download to help you start creating your own. imagine.

a personal 10-year plan: rotating the crops

06 July 2016

i love a good plan.

as a brand strategist, having a plan is how i’ve led change for iconic brands like jaguar and bbc america, and it is how hal and i have led change in our lives. a rolling 10 year plan is how we have built a business. how we have done the work, both personal and commissioned, that got us where we’ve wanted to go.

a good plan provides intention. and intention inevitably creates action. it’s almost as though you can’t resist it.

so why a personal 10-year plan and not a one year plan or a five year plan?

easy: the beauty of a 10 year container is its absurdity.

i mean, how can you predict what might happen in a decade?

you can’t. and so the detailed planning of such an ambitious and unpredictable length of time sets in motion, for me, an act of faith. it creates a framework upon which to hang my biggest, stupidest dreams. a long shot bullseye, a billboard-sized “what if” to hold all the potential and longing I can sense in myself right now, and all the happiness and success I can imagine for myself over my next life cycle.

because life has its own rhythms. a lot changes in a decade. most notably: you. nytimes article “your body is younger than you think” is a great perspective on our renewal cycles. I boil it down like this: every seven or so years your cells regenerate. every seven years we find ourselves inhabiting a new space. consider yourself at seven or 14, then at 21 and 28, at 35 and so on… seven years is a lifetime in and of itself. a full season, with a ton of beginnings and endings tucked inside, like matryoshka dolls.

and as we age our rhythms begin to make themselves more apparent. we get a sense of what goes where. we plant our seeds, we nurture them, we cull and harvest, and, if we’re lucky, we learn when to let the soil rest, when to rotate our crops… we may live as many as 12 or 13 seasons in our life.

what to do with all that time? may as well dream a little. that’s how I see a 10 year plan. it’s a holder of my dreams, a way to stay connected to what matters to me, a beacon for the times when a little course correction is in order.

a little course correction for me: i’m going to take a break from writing about leading change in business, and write about creating a personal 10 year plan. a how-to based on what I’ve learned from leading change in my own life.

next week we’ll give the plan its bones: where to start, where it ends, and the stuff you’ll do in between.

loop point

30 June 2016

apparently we have an 18 month loop…

“it is always important to know when something has reached its end. closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” - paulo coelho

relinquere et giocare

17 June 2016

relinquish and play. my husband, hal wolverton, and i have worked together for 30 years. for a good portion of that we have collaborated on a 10-year plan, a rolling container of our dreams and aspirations. over the last several years we’ve formalized it a bit, and at the advice of my coach, allan millham, we have given each year a theme. this year, “relinquere et giocare.” relinquish and play.

this 10-year planning is native work to me. the thrill of a juicy strategy, crafting a vision for ourselves, mapping the ins and outs of objectives and breaking it into tactics, exploring what goes along with the change we’re striving to affect. typically we work together in december and into january crafting our plan for the coming year.

last year we knew that we had a crazy end of year schedule so we did the work in october. we agreed that this year we needed a year of letting go, that we needed more time to play, to do a little magpie-ing. a detail of the plan, ‘to-do lists remain light,’ has stayed with me. it held a potent allure.

and then, entirely not according to plan, an extraordinary situation arose, and we dove in… and ‘relinquish and play’ could not have seemed more ridiculous. i’ve spent the last several months being taunted by that strategy. in truth, i felt mocked by it.

but as we shifted into the final work of the extraordinary project, the lessons of relinquishing are the most heartfelt. i believe it’s where the most learning will be for me. in ‘the book of awakening’ by mark nepo, there is a meditation on “giving up what no longer works.” he writes about it as being analogous to sacrifice. he describes sacrifice as “giving up with reverence and compassion what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.”

my mind has translated that as ‘when your work is done, you no longer work.’ i like the zen of it. as a leader of change it has a koan-like quality that guides me in understanding my own role.

when your work is done, you no longer work. my work is done. this year, that marks the moment to relinquish and play.

an agile mind

15 May 2016

just as the carefully calibrated cinema lens facilitates seamless shifting from one object of focus to another, cognitive shifting allows the brain to redirect awareness from one fixation towards another. so if your mind spends more time in the muddled middle than in focus, near or far, it indicates a need for improved cognitive flexibility. like the body can be stretched, coaxed into pliability, so can the mind.
    according to cognitive neuroscientist dr. wilma koutstaal, “mental flexibility is really about adaptability and our ability to shift our thoughts between the abstract and specific in order to respond effectively to any given situation[…] it can enable us to be more effective problem solvers and problem finders, helping to foster creativity and innovation and allowing us to identify and realize promising opportunity.”
    change demands an agile mind.
    how does one stretch their brain, strengthen their executive function to lead change, or at least not drown amidst it?
    step away. make soup. learn something new. pay close attention to what you think and say and challenge what doesn’t serve you. disrupt routines with novel twists: a new route home, something different for breakfast, an evening walk instead of a morning run. pulse focused thought and diffuse attention, the being and doing. balance control and spontaneity.
    dare to let things go.

focus change

02 May 2016

cinema cameras have really worked out the mechanics of moving from near focus to far focus. focus is moving the internal glass in relation to itself. each piece of glass shapes and reshapes light as it threads along a track in perfect calibration.

ideally that’s what is happening with change. information converging and diverging in your mind’s eye like rays of light. but sometimes the pieces don’t thread so smoothly. you feel stuck between two points of focus. your executive function — what allows you to plan, to strategize, to follow through — sticks.

in leading change a crucial aspect of executive function is cognitive flexibility. it’s a malleability that facilitates the mind to zoom into the hyper detail of now and out to imagine an ideal future. it allows us to consider what is, what was, and what will be, all at the same time.

change leaders exercise their mind to be able to shift quickly between the focal lengths of past, present, and future.