If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

Fear Isn’t Real

There seems to be a lot of fear going around these days. Fear of getting sick, fear of going broke, fear of going broke because you got sick, fear of the unknown and apparently even fear of running out of toilet paper.

All this fear going around is kinda weird since fear isn’t actually real. You can see someone who appears to be scared but you can’t see the fear. You can hear someone scream but you’ve never heard fear make a sound. Fear has no odor, no color and no taste. Show me what fear looks like and I’ll hold up a mirror and show you someone with a vivid imagination.

You’ve never seen fear because fear doesn’t exist.

Dale Carnegie once said the “the only place fear exists is in our minds.” If that were all there was to it then no one would ever be afraid. Unfortunately the mind is very powerful and it frequently convinces us that the unreal is indeed very real.

When your mind convinces you that your fear is real the effects can be devastating. Fear can be and often is fatal to dreams. It paralyzes our thinking and it spreads quickly. Allowed to exist long enough fear will consume all rational thinking. When relational thinking is gone fear can play all kinds of tricks on us. It’s favorite trick seems to be making us believe the possible is actually impossible.

The good news is that there is an antidote for fear. It’s called action. Almost any action will do but nothing beats carefully considered, planned out action.

That is one reason I have so many plans. Plans in case I lose my income. Plans in case I get sick and can’t work. Plans for things out of my control. Yes, I understand that I can’t control things out of my control but I can certainly have a plan for how I will respond to them. So can you!

I have plans so when fear attempts to overtake me I don’t have to think…I just have to take whatever actions my plan says to take. That fake sensation of fear gets swamped by action.

Having a plan before fear attempts it’s takeover is best but it’s not essential. But when fear begins to creep in you must act quickly. Just do something. Do one thing that you know is right. Then do another, a couple of quick actions will buy you a bit of time to do some planning. Be sure that your plan includes lots of action steps because every action you take will weaken fear’s ability to hold you back.

As powerful as fear can feel at times the reality is that fear has only the power that you allow it to have. The secret to eliminating fear in your life is to believe in yourself more than you believe in fear.

Fear is an illusion that is easily exposed by logical thoughts and actions. YOU CAN beat it. You can outthink it. You can out hustle it. You can overpower it with a belief in yourself.

The only question is whether or not you believe you can.

So, do you believe?

A Plan for Life

Research shows that the average person will spend 40 hours planning a two-week vacation. That is 40 hours more then they invest in planning the rest of their lives.

Goals are the plan for your life.

Most everyone claims to believe that goals are important. Somewhere around 10% of those people actually have goals that are written down. A very small handful of that 10% have a formal plan for how they intend to achieve those goals.

If you’re in that vast majority of people who don’t have a formal goal achieving plan then I have some shocking news for you. YOU are an unproductive person!

If you didn’t do something to intentionally get closer to at least one of your goals today then no matter how busy you may feel you were not productive. That means that if you don’t have formal goals along with a written plan on how you’re going to achieve them then you cannot be productive…not matter how busy you might be.

But having true goals and a plan to achieve them goes way beyond making you productive. True goals gives a purpose to everything you do. When your actions have purpose then your life has passion. If you’ve ever felt as if you’re sleepwalking through life then you NEED true goals. If you not certain why you’re doing what you’re doing then you NEED true goals.

If you want to live a purpose driven life then you NEED true goals. If you want a reason to push yourself to reach your potential then you NEED true goals.

I won’t kid you, developing meaningful goals takes time, likely more time than it would take you to plan your next two-week vacation. It requires serious reflection about what’s most important to you. You’ll need a vision for your life and what you want it to look like in a year, 3 years and 5 years and beyond.

If you don’t currently have true goals and a written plan for how you’re going to achieve them then it’s likely you lack discipline as well. If your goals are meaningful enough and your plan is thorough enough they will drive a new discipline within you. That’s the power of true goals.

President Abraham Lincoln said “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” If you want to wonder what the future holds for you then you don’t need to do a thing. Just keep floating along through life. If however you want to control your future and shape what’s in store for you down the road then you’ll need to get serious about setting true goals.

There isn’t a much better life than a life lived on purpose for a purpose. Purpose comes from knowing where you’re going and having a map to get there.

Do you know your purpose?

There is No Requirement to Plan

So much has been written about planning. Trainers, speakers, coaches, motivational types, they all write and speak about the importance of planning. Especially this time of year. 

 

They will tell you that you must have a plan for 2019. They will use all the standard cliches about failing to plan is planning to fail…you’ve heard it all before. That’s ridiculous, nobody would intentionally plan to fail. 

 

The truth is that you don’t need to plan to fail, it kind of happens all by itself. There is no special effort required. If fact, the less effort the better. Giving a half-hearted effort with no plan only delays the inevitable failure. So just sit back and watch it happen….to you. 

 

Don’t let people bully you into making a plan that you have no intention of following. I can hardly think of a bigger waste of time. Step up and be honest about it. Let them know straight away that you have no intention of putting forth the effort required to implement any plan. 

 

Most people will leave you alone after that. They leave you alone because their plan does not include helping others. Well, truth be told it’s far more likely that they don’t have a plan either. 

 

It’s actually a rather small number of people who have a real plan. Now by “real plan” I mean something written out. It includes an honest assessment of their current situation and a realistic look at their desired outcome. 

 

Within their real plan are short range, medium, and long range goals. Their plan has a budget within it. It’s a two part budget, one part details the money they are will to invest to achieve their desired outcome but more importantly it details the time they are willing to invest in order to succeed. 

 

The best plans also include things they will STOP doing so they have the time to invest in more productive activities. Of course it’s not a real plan if it doesn’t include implementation steps, start dates and completion dates. The plan does NOT include words like tomorrow or someday because people who make real plans know those “dates” can’t be found on a calendar. 

 

You can spot people with real plans because they are typically the people who people without plans complain about. People without plans are jealous of people with plans because they tend to have more of the stuff that the people without plans want. 

 

If that’s confusing to you don’t worry about it, I’ve been confused by it for years. 

 

It’s never too late to develop a real plan. If you’re one of those people who are tempted to once and for all develop a real plan for success in 2019 I have a warning for you. Once you invest the time to develop a REAL plan for 2019 it will continuously pull at your “lazy strings” until they are completely unraveled. 

 

Before you know it all the comfortable excuses you used in the past to explain away your “bad luck” or “unfortunate circumstances” will be forgotten. You won’t accept circumstances created by someone else, you’ll make your own. 

 

You will find yourself accomplishing more than you thought possible. You’ll use your old excuses as fuel to motivate you. You won’t stop until you’ve achieved the goals you built into your real plan. 

 

 Or…you could just do what you’ve always done. There is absolutely no requirement that you have a plan for success. You can just wander through life the way some people do. Like pretty much everything in life it’s a choice. 


YOUR choice!


The Power of Planning

Plans don’t always work. I was reminded of that fact when a friend was telling a story from his childhood. 

 

His family had a large dog but he wanted a hamster. His parents surprised him one day with a hamster all is own. The dog was overly “interested” in the hamster so my friend made a plan to keep the hamster safe and sound. 

 

His plan involved keeping the hamster in a box with a clothesline running through it. He would attach one end of the clothesline to one wall and the other end to the opposite wall. He was sure to hang it high enough so that the dog couldn’t reach it. He was at least as sure as a ten year old could be. 

 

He was pretty sad upon returning from school one day to find his beloved hamster in multiple pieces with the box laying nearby. I guess hanging the box five feet off the floor was just too enticing a target for a dog that stood 3-1/2 feet on all fours. 

 

As elaborate a plan as it was for a ten year old it just didn’t work out. 

 

So plans don’t always work but here is the good news…planning almost always does. I should say that planning almost always works, or is beneficial if…. you’re using a solid planning process. 

 

With that in mind here is an 8-step planning process I’ve written about before. I’ve used it for years as have many other successful people I know. It simply works.

 

Step one is to develop a clear and honest picture of your current situation. Many people don’t get to where they want to go because they have no idea where they are starting from. If you’re not completely honest with yourself in this step the rest of the process is likely doomed to fail. 

 

Step two is stating a very specific understanding and vision of your desired situation or outcome. Specificity is the key here, if your desired outcome is murky your results will be too. 

 

Step three is where the real work begins. That’s where you develop short, medium and long range goals. A short range goal could be a day, week or even a month. The longest range goals can be as far out into the future as you like but there must be an end date. Someday is NOT on your calendar or anybody else’s. Don’t mess around with this, the end date must be in your expected lifetime. (Yes, I’ve actually seen people set goals for after they are dead) Your goals must be specific, measurable, realistic, and timed. I repeat, someday is not a real day. 

 

Step four is where the actual plans are developed. What actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to one or more of your goals? What will you change to make it happen? (The only way something doesn’t need to change is if you have already achieved the goal) What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals? 

 

One point I’d like to make here. I wrote what actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to your goals. It is my personal belief that no matter how busy you may have been on any given day, if you didn’t get closer to either a personal or professional goal you were not productive. Successful people do not mistake a busy day for a productive one and if you want to be successful then you shouldn’t either.

 

Step five is determining the investment you are willing to make to ensure that your plan succeeds. While you are determining the investment you’re willing to make don’t forget that every successful outcome likely requires two things, money AND time. Believe it or not the money part is often easier than the time part. I can’t tell you the number of times I made a plan to get in better shape. I set some goals, joined a club, wrote a big fat check and failed. I failed because I never committed the time to actually go to the club. After many expensive memberships I finally determined it just wasn’t a priority in my life. Don’t make my mistake, if you’re not committed to your plan then you’re not committed to success.

 

Step six is setting up your time table. Most people think this is only about deadlines. That’s a common mistake. Just as important as when the plan will come to fruition is determining when you will put the plan into action. I’ve seen many a great plan never implemented. If there are not specific action steps built into your plan, including the very first action you will take, then you may have a decent plan but your planning process is fatally flawed. 

 

Step seven is launching the plan. Put some air under its wings, take the first action you’ve planned and see what happens. 

 

Step eight is the follow-up step. Hopefully you have trusted people in your life that you have shared your plan with. Revisit your plan with them often. The fact that everything isn’t happening exactly as you planned doesn’t mean the plan was bad, stuff happens. The best news is your plan allows you to see where and how you’ve gotten off track, that makes it much easier to get back on. 

 

Very few plans remain completely intact throughout the process of implementing them. Don’t let the first hiccup derail your success, adjust, re-launch, and move forward. Repeat as often as necessary. 

 

My friend got another hamster, he used a nearly identical plan to protect it. The second plan merely included the addition of a ladder to hang the box higher. Work your plan as designed, adjust as needed, and you’ll go higher too. 


That’s the power of planning! 

Your Most Important Day Ever

What was or what will be the most important day of your life? 

 

Maybe it was your 18th birthday, you know, the day you could begin repaying your parents or caregivers for all that they have done for you. Perhaps it was or will be your wedding day, the day your life journey with the person of your dreams truly begins. It could be the day that you were fortunate enough to realize your true purpose in life. 

 

All of those days no doubt had or will have tremendous impact on your life. They are very special days indeed. But the reality is that today is the most important day of your life. 

 

Most people don’t think of it that way but here’s why it’s true. Today is the singular day you can control. Maybe not all of it but more of it than any other day. Today is the day that has the potential to make tomorrow and all of your tomorrows after that your best day yet. 

 

You cannot change yesterday. The best thing yesterday can do for you is inform the decisions that you make today. Learn from yesterday’s mistakes and keep the good memories close but in terms of overall importance to your future, yesterday is a has been. Never never never allow a bad yesterday to make your today a bad day too.

 

I like forward thinking people but never focus so much on tomorrow that you lose control of today. Whatever else you don’t do waste one precious minute of this day worrying about what might happen tomorrow. 

 

Instead carve out a part of today that will ensure tomorrow is exactly what you want it to be. 

 

Early, very early each morning I invest 30 minutes planning my day. I block time to accomplish the important things I must do that day. It makes no difference what time zone or part of the world I’m in. Those 30 minutes are often the most important, and productive, minutes of my day. 

 

My day doesn’t always go according to my plan, in fact it often doesn’t. But it does give me a measure of control over my day that few other people have over theirs. 

 

I want that control because today is too important to waste. 

 

I may chose to do nothing but rest. I may chose to not do anything at all but whatever I do it happens by choice and not by chance. Unless of course my plan is to have no plan that day and see where the wind takes me. That too is a choice that I make for MY life. 

 

I make that choice because today is too important to waste. 

 

Circumstances and “stuff” can knock me off my plan but only MY choice can keep me from returning to it. When I regain control of my circumstances I go straight back to my plan for the day. It’s those 30 minutes early in the day that make that possible. 


I invest those 30 minutes each morning because today is my most important day ever. It’s way too important to waste. It’s your most important day ever too!


Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 

 

To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 

 

As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 

 

While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.

 

As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.

 

I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!

    

So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

    

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.

     

Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.