“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
The fourth step is to come up with a plan
Great, you now know more about those internal obstacles from the third step, and you’ve hopefully recruited somebody you trust to help you make a plan. Now is the time to buy that person a coffee or a glass of wine and start putting the plan together. In this phase, you will be using your rational brain to do a lot of planning, whereas previous steps were primarily listening to your heart.
The pieces of your plan
The first piece is writing down your goal.
Take that positively stated goal from step one, and put it at the top of a new piece of paper in big bold letters. This is your plan sheet. Your goal is what directs the entire plan, so we put it at the top to make sure we keep in mind until we achieve it.
Start with your biggest obstacle.
We will be working with all the internal obstacles that we identified in step two. We want to start with the obstacle that you identified as being the most important in step three. Write it down below the goal.
Make a plan for that obstacle.
The way that I have found most effective for planning is to go through this basic flow:
- Come up with the logical part of the plan. If the goal is to have the body of your dreams and the obstacle is that you eat too much, then the logical plan is to eat less. If the goal is to get a job you can be passionate about, and the obstacle is that you don’t know what you are passionate about, the logical plan is to identify what that passion could be. This is an ideal place to engage your trusted pal. Have them help you brainstorm creative ways to get what you want. They will probably ask you questions about how you could do things, have you thought of this, etc etc. After you run out of logical plans, google how others are doing it. You want lots of options on the table here.
- Narrow the list down to items that are feasible for your situation. Look at each option – if you believe that you have the ability to execute one of the logical pieces, circle it. If you are 100% sure that you could never do it, cross it out. If you aren’t sure, just leave it as is.
- Come up with the emotional part of the plan. Logic is great, but it’s only half of the picture. I know logically that I should follow a budget, but I often times don’t. Why? Because I have emotions about budgets. This is where you use the answers you got from step three and decide what you will do when emotions come up. If your obstacle is eating too much, what will you do when you crave your next donut or pizza? What is the plan when your friends invite you to your favorite restaurant where you always get fried cheese curds and a beer? Everything in this section will obviously be very personal to you, but having your buddy ask you different questions about your triggers can help immensely. For every item on your logical plan that isn’t crossed out you want at least two emotional plan items.
Now it’s time for an ‘ecological check’.
Which is a fancy way of saying – will this totally mess up the rest of your life, and will it actually get you what you want? Look at the top of the sheet of paper, then look at all the circled items for your top priority obstacle. If your plan is to never eat donuts again, but the only place you socialize is at the donut shop, then you might run into some other problems. You’ll lose weight, but you won’t have a social life. So, in this example, how can you either A) Go to the donut shop and not eat donuts OR B) Get your friends at the shop to meet you somewhere else? Is there a different way that you can keep your social life AND move towards your deam body?
Often it is easiest to think of each major ‘section’ of your life when doing an ecological check. How will this change affect your relationships? Your work? Your happiness? Your financial situation? Make sure you understand and accept how this change will ripple out to the rest of your life, and write down anything that you want to make sure to keep in mind as you move forward.
Decide on the scale of what you are going to do. Little changes take a longer time to get you where you want to be. Big changes take a lot of energy to do and often take over our lives. In our example, I could just eat one less donut per week and, all other things being equal, I would very slowly lose a little weight. Or I could go on a strict ketogenic diet (my favorite) and lose weight quickly, but be very challenged to stay on diet. Or, of course, I can do something in between. It all depends on what my situation is.
Getting the life you want isn’t easy, so the point here is to challenge yourself. Ask your buddy to challenge you, but come up with how hard you are willing to work to get the life you want.
Now write down your specific goal and plan. There are lots of frameworks for this. The four that I like are OKR or SMART goal, a BSQ goal, or a GROW goal.
WHEW! Take a deep breath.
This is a HUGE step with lots of brain power, and probably quite a bit of emotional energy, being expended. Take your plan and tape it to the wall, or your computer, or the fridge. Keep it in sight though, because the next step is all about turning that piece of paper into reality.
Some other resources:
- Not sure how you got here? Check out the First Step here.
- Tony Robbins RPM planning method.
- One minute manager goal setting.
- TED talk about why goal setting is so important.