The best laid plans

The best laid plansI have been convinced for many years now, that it should be possible for someone like me, to have a plan and stick to it, even a little bit, but I am becoming increasingly unconvinced.

I want a plan – I have said to my coaches…all of them, business and life coaches!

You need a plan Jen – say my family, friends, business friends, advocates etc!

You need a business plan Jen – yes I really do have one, honestly!

I want a plan – say my clients when they come for coaching.

You must have a treatment plan – goals, aims and objective – that still rings in my ears

We are seriously addicted to plans of all sorts. Wedding plans, diet plans, wellbeing plans, business plans, career plans, holiday plans, life plans, garden plans etc. I think its a bit like a comfort blanket for human beings? Perhaps knowing we a “plan” makes us feel secure, gives us purpose instead of “drifting” (heaven forbid the luxury of that, in this world of opportunity, striving and achievement) Planning gives us roles to perform, habits to create, contexts in which to operate. Yep human beings love the idea of having a plan.

But they just don’t happen for me and I have been beating myself up for several years about it.  I have made countless marketing plans, PR plans, business plans, social media plans, financial plans (I am lying about that last one!). You have to when you run your own thing – its the law…well its part of “culture” or perhaps I would rather call it “institutionalized behaviour” that goes with being in “business”.   I have sat at countless business  breakfasts, with men and women alike thinking, “Really?  You are really telling me that you stick to your plans and they work out? You must be bulls****g me!”) I don’t say it, I just think it.

My plans go like this: make plan, write it down, put in it folder in filing cabinet, on the laptop or in a notebook. Get up next day, get engrossed in stuff, forget plan, leave for at least a month, find plan, curse self, congratulate self with miracle that has allowed some stuff to happen, curse self again (as its habitual), change plan completely, start from scratch wasting previous effort?

So this linear planning thing doesn’t work for me. By this I mean the sort of planning we are taught at work/school and everywhere else. It teaches us to get a goal, identify steps, complete steps, reach goal. It’s the stuff that SMART goals are made of (urgh).  But I have had a  revelation, courtesy of Richard Boyatzis (Resonant Leadership and other great works) and apparently, I am not alone!

In fact, according to Boyatzis linear planning, like SMART, only suits 1/4 of people…yes I said that right, only a 1/4 of people do well with goals, steps etc.  The other 3/4’s of us are either:  Domain/Direction planners, which mean we know the direction we want to go in but kinda weave a path towards it roughly; Short term, immediacy planners, who just respond to stuff and don’t have a long term aim; or Existential planners, who leave stuff up to fate/bliss/higher power.

This really is big news in many ways and I have been banging on about it, since learning about it from a brilliant free course (yes thats right, a free online course, with Boyatzis). I have also taken the step of bringing it up when I coach others, why wouldn’t I. When people want a plan, we first explore what type of planners they might be, what worked in the past for them.

Most recently a session started with the all too familiar “I want a plan” and eventually we found out that this lady was in the last group, she was a self expressed Existential planner, so making firm plans and steps etc had never worked for her. She always “trusted the universe” and noticed what was going well and went with it. I would add that I imagine most people are a bit of both. She also had a rough idea of where she was headed, so it wasn’t completely left to fate, but there was no question what her over-ridding, natural preference was.

I have been coached hundreds of times over the last 10 years and no one has thought to ask me this! Why? Perhaps if they had, I would have spent a lot less time beating myself up over the years and saved a lot of energy.

So please, if you are a coach, please bear this in mind and ask your clients. If you are a therapist eg an OT, please please see what has worked for your clients and not just enforce stuff you think you should because it looks good on paper, or you have been told to, if you are a parent or teacher, don’t batter kids into an unnatural way of working.  We are supposed to be working with people and understanding their individuality, strengths and path of ease – that goes with everything, even if we don’t find it comfortable to work with. If you are helping someone, its about them, not you.

This is good news.


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