a personal 10-year plan: schedules (make me twitchy)

31 August 2016

milestones and schedules in my life make me twitchy. personal deadlines kind of irritate me. the voice in my head has enough ammo to undo me without giving it the additional firepower of a deadline. it’s entirely unreasonable, and some would say (i’m not naming any names) i’m being childish. ok. but still, i don’t like them.

so, instead, i give myself general shapes, moods of things i’d like to tackle, i spend time imagining the parts i really like. i’ve found that sprinkling the forward path with delicious bits that i’m looking forward to doing keeps me going way more than does strewing it with deadlines.

if the beauty of a ten year container is that it’s so absurd, the irony of it is its malleability.

many writers talk about finishing a manuscript and putting it away for a while.
they come back to it to see what sounds true and what needs to be re-worked.

same with your plan. write it down. set it aside. note the things you want to check in on, in a few months, in a few years.

i put those things in my calendar. with a reminder. honestly, i put them in with some juicy bits. a dazzling little detail that i figure i can block some time for. it’s kind of a thrill when one comes up, or sometimes a total pain in the ass. either way, it’s a note to my future self, a reminder that i have a dream and there are awesome things about it.

it’s a reminder of a little step that will make a big difference, a vote of confidence that i’ll pay attention to my dreams.

a personal 10-year plan: 800 lb gorillas

23 August 2016

if what pleases you is at the heart of the plan for your life, it is flanked on one side by soft, inviting gratitude and on the other by an 800 lb gorilla. this 800 lb gorilla is something that everyone knows, but no one talks about. it’s too much debt. a job you hate or that bores the pants off you. it’s not getting to the gym, or drinking too much. it’s the things in life that you know are keeping you down, but you just don’t quite deal with.

we all have an 800 lb gorilla, or four. and for each gorilla, there is a critical risk, an action that needs to be taken. it’s an emotional risk, an “i’m going to make myself extremely vulnerable to deal with this” kind of a risk. the 800 lb gorilla is the affair, the risk is talking about it. the 800 lb gorilla is you drink too much, the risk is stopping. the 800 lb gorilla is “i hate this job,” the risk is moving on.

these risks, though emotional and values-based, require physical engagement — the big tactics of achieving your dreams. identifying them is the first part of moving through them. then ask the question: what steps am i going to take to clean this up so i can move toward what i actually want?

the 800 lb gorilla and its related risk, the heavy lifting, together with the light and optimism of pleasure and gratitude, provide four questions that, when applied to the different facets of life, guide us in the direction of our biggest, most audacious dreams.

what pleases me? what am i grateful for? what are my 800 lb gorillas? how do i use all of that to move towards my dreams?

important: this is not scientific. this is not the same style of work that i do for business. managing change for a business is research and analytics, budgets and feasibility studies. it’s methodical. there is a lot of creativity that is woven in, but at its core it is business. what i’m writing about here is deeply personal.

i can’t go to the finance department in my life, or see if the research group can do a feasibility study on my dreams. i have no hr guidelines to refer to in the conflict management of my personal life.

turns out our dreams are up to us.

and so, the ten year plan, and its messiness. i create a 10 year plan because i simply cannot keep track of all the parts and the things that are genuinely important to me. i get swept up with things, or bored with them. even what matters most deeply to me can be gone the instant a deadline goes south or a soul i love is sick.

having a plan means that i don’t have to hold on so tightly. i can let go. so i hope that you’ll let your plan breathe. it’s not rigid. you don’t have to be ‘on it.’ let it be there. for you. more like a $3 drawer-organizer from ikea than a corporate brand strategy. let it help you separate the spoons from the knives. have it collaborate with the calendar on the refrigerator, and the suitcase ziplock that keeps shampoo from getting all over your underwear.

it’s not fancy. it’s buckets and bins to hold the bits and pieces that matter. duct tape for your dreams.

a personal 10-year plan: pleasure + gratitude

17 August 2016

when mapping out what you want your life to be like, what pleases you is a great focus to keep at the heart of your work (otherwise you’ll have a plan that has you doing shit you don’t love, and that doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things…).

this isn’t fluff. it’s very pragmatic. basic. how sustainable is a steady diet of stuff that doesn’t please you?

trust me on this, you can’t depend solely on discipline to achieve long term outcomes. there has to be pleasure.

pragmatic: when you have more things in your life that please you than displease you, you tend to be more productive. productivity + dreams, powerful. when you incorporate the knowledge of what pleases you into your plan, when you leverage those native things in your daily routines, then you move in the direction of your dreams.

conversely, without pleasure, your plan will be a big discipline box of things you’re supposed to do and the things that are supposed to represent success. an intellectualized path that has nothing to do with what you actually love about life. use caution when applying ‘should.’

if you don’t know what pleases you, consider what you’re grateful for. gratitude often gives insight into what pleases you.

gratitude is also one of the most real, in the moment ways of knowing where you are. it’s one of the most soulful ways to create optimism for where you want to go. gratitude grounds you in what is, and motivates you in what could be.

jot it down. what pleases you? what are you grateful for? it’s a very powerful start.

next week we’ll talk about two other necessary pieces: the 800 lb gorilla and how to use it.

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