Dealing with Detours & Limited Visibility: Planning vs Living

While I’m not a huge planner, I do have a twenty year plan for my fiction career and three years into it, I’m exactly where I want to be. This month Melinda talks about how to deal with long term planning and short term detours. -Alex.

Driving in the DarkPlans are like a road map – they tell you where to go. Not like people tell you where to go when they’re insulting you, maps (and plans) tell you in a good way. So why don’t we all plan our lives, businesses, careers and families more?

Often it’s because we can’t comprehend that far ahead. It’s hard to get our head around planning what we’ll do in 20 years time. Heck, some days I have trouble planning the next weekend!

And there’s also the “I might not want the same things then” along with “how can I plan that far ahead when I know I’m going to change in that time?” See, the thing is, by the time you get 20 years further along in life then it’s a given that you’ll want different things and that you’ll change. If you don’t change then you’re probably dead, in which case you won’t care.

Guaranteed to change

So we don’t plan. We drift. We might plan a year or two down the track, or we plan for tangible results and things we can see. Anyone here got a 30 year mortgage or a five year car loan/lease? Yes, I thought so. What we can’t see is who we’ll be in the future and so we avoid designing ourselves in advance in case it doesn’t fit with who we become on the journey.

News Flash. It’s not going to fit. You’re going to change and your plans are going to change. Guaranteed.

Guess what? In 20 years you’ll be 20 years older

Think about this. In 20 years time you’ll be 20 years older. And some things won’t change. You’ll still have your morals and values. Some things that are uber-important to you now will still be uber-important then, like family – only you’ll probably have grandkids rather than kids then.

Who do you want to be in 20 years time? How can you design your life so your values are still there, only stronger?

Road trip 101

Think of going on a long journey and how you plan it. You look at your map or GPS, and you plan where you’re going – from A to B and the road in between. Which towns you’re going to drive through. Take the faster main highway with the tolls and traffic or the longer but quieter back roads? Where will we stop for food and fuel on the way?

Then you leave and it’s night time so you turn your headlights on. Tell me, how far can you see? A couple of hundred metres, or as far as the light reaches, yes? Does that worry you, that you can’t see your destination when you leave home? Of course it doesn’t, because experience has taught you that as you drive the road will be revealed in the lights as you move forward.

Your life plans are the same. You can’t see 20 years ahead, but you can see next week, and next month. And as time passes you keep seeing next week and next month, but they keep moving on into the future as you do.

When problems happen – and they will

And sometimes as you drive there’ll be something unexpected. Roadworks. A detour. A flooded road. A flat tyre or mechanical failure. You have to work around it. Take a different route. Try a new road. Fix a problem.

Sometimes these hiccups and diversions lead to angst and frustration. You might get lost and confused. Run late. Costs more than you expected. And maybe you’ll discover something new along the way. Unexpected and exciting. Something you’d never have seen if not for the detour.

And always your headlights are showing just that bit of road immediately in front of you. Yet you still know where you’re headed in the end, even though you can’t see it and the signs may not even be pointing to it yet. You know, you’ve planned the road.

So what are you going to do about it?

You’re eventually going to be 20 years older than you are now. Are you going to allow yourself to drift directionless, going wherever the road takes you? Or are you going to plan who and what you want to be and deal with the changes and hiccups along the way to becoming that person?

About Melinda

Melinda BrennanMelinda Brennan is a business coach who woke up one day and realised that she was 20 years older and hadn’t notice the years passing. Now she’s becoming who she wants to be and loving a deliberately planned life. Hiccups, detours, roadblocks and all.

Check out what she’s doing at WAHM Biz Builder

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9 thoughts on “Dealing with Detours & Limited Visibility: Planning vs Living

  1. Karen Swim says:

    This line said it all for me: “experience has taught you that as you drive the road will be revealed in the lights as you move forward.” What an incredibly insightful and beautiful analogy. There are days when your internal questions are met with answers that rise up around you. Today is one of those days, thank you.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..The 5 Things I Hate About Social Media | Search Engine People Blog =-.

  2. Mick Morris says:

    I am into my twentieth year of my career….. I am were I planned to be at the start of that twenty year period… but some drastic changes have happened in life and I am no longer heading along the rest of the path that I had defined way back then.

    Now 20 years older, heavier and hopefully wiser… it would be fair to saythat the ultimate goal has not changed, just the route that will be used to get there!

    This post was a great reminder that the map is not the territory!
    .-= Mick Morris´s last blog ..A sad reflection on choices. =-.

  3. Melinda,

    thirty years ago I sat down and did exactly what you are saying. I mapped out a long range plan for my life, which had broad stroke goals for what I wanted my life to be like by the time I was in my fifties. I didn’t want to hit my fifties without certain tangible markers in place.

    I wanted to thus and so by the time I was thirty…check. Forty…check…fifty…coming up this year and as I look at it I can see that everything I am doing right now is heading me with pinpoint focus right to crossing those goals off in time. So …yeah..check. There are goals for sixty and so on…all the way as far as I can imagine my life being…including retiring on a beach with my dearly beloved ones at my side.

    Did it mean that all of the little goals on there happened? No. Life is creative and if you step back and give it room, it has its own way of getting you to your goals. But the big ones did. All of them. Maybe not the way I envisioned them when I was young…but there they are.

    And that brings up another point. Be careful what you put in writing and focus your dreams on. They may come true!
    Great post!
    .-= Wendi Kelly~Life’s Little Inspirations´s last blog ..How to Live a Great Life =-.

  4. @ Karen, we have a lot of answers inside us that we often don’t realise is there until we need them.

    @ Mick, hey! Lovely to see you here! I know that you know all too well how painful and far-reaching those detours can be.

    @ Wendi, LOL, and how often do we tell our clients to write down their goals very specifically. Why? Because it helps them happen. Sometimes the small goals along the way don’t matter by the time we planned to reach them, it’s the big, life changing goals that we have to remain true to.
    .-= Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder´s last blog ..Christmas Break =-.

  5. Melinda! I love this – I had just this week gone through a bit of a struggle with what I had planned to accomplish over the few years (personally) and realized that I can’t control every twist and turn. I’m glad I’m not alone in this one! Thanks for your guidance – for me, it’s currently learning about how to create a balance between having a direction and being grateful for the now.
    .-= Laura Cococcia | The Journal of Cultural Conversation´s last blog ..How To Choose Your Own Adventure =-.

  6. Thanks Melinda for your interesting post.

    I remember in my previous work, our boss asked our consultants and I to do 20-year industry planning. We initially thought we could not do it. We thought we could only do 5-year planning. But still we went ahead. Eventually, we surprised ourselves because we’ve been able to do 20-year industry planning where we had the widest participation from stakeholders.

    We have only two choices in life – drift or plan. I don’t know anyone who succeeded in life without plan. Not everything happens in life as planned. But that’s not a reason for not planning.

    I like what you said -“Your life plans are the same. You can’t see 20 years ahead, but you can see next week, and next month. And as time passes you keep seeing next week and next month, but they keep moving on into the future as you do.”

    .-= Jose Anajero│Internet Business´s last blog ..5 Ways to Increase Profits in 2010 =-.

  7. Steven says:

    Hi Melinda, I decided to commit to some long term planning today. For the first time I wrote down some thoughts which turned into me starting a blog:

    I’m certainly not an expert blogger or writer but it felt quite liberating to start to develop a plan. From the basic outline on the blog I’ve made the goals SMART and feel for once I have a real plan for the next twelve months. As Anthony Robbins suggests: ‘we all have a vision for the quality of life that we desire and deserve. Yet, for many of us, those dreams have become so shrouded in the frustrations and routines of daily life that we no longer even make an effort to accomplish them’. This is certainly the place I’d got to. Perhaps with a more detailed road map life will become more purposeful.


  8. @ Laura, you’re definately not alone! Good luck with balancing it all – sometimes balance is simply deciding what today’s priority is and letting the rest drop.

    @ Jose, you’re right about the ‘drift or plan’. I’ve watched (am watching) family members drift through life and bitch about how nothing goes right and everyone else is so lucky, blah blah blah. Yet they don’t want to listen to anyone who suggests making a plan and taking action. It’s frustrating.

    @ Steven, Woohoo! Well done on those goals, I’ll be watching with interest to see how they go. Your situation sounds really stressful, good on you for deciding to make changes.

  9. I especially like the idea of focusing on who we want to be as well as what we would like to achieve. I think that the way we travel along the road towards our goals is even more important than the destination. I really enjoying reading this 🙂

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