Get Back on Track and Achieve Personal Empowerment Through Planning
If you’re feeling disorganized and ready for change, it’s time to get back on track. One thing that my years of experience as a therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor has taught me is that there is a season for all things. It is necessary to take a break and let yourself rest sometimes. Other times, the most important work is that of growth and self discovery. Yet in other seasons, the most important thing you can do is to take action.
But before any meaningful action can happen, there are a few things that need to come first. As I discussed in a recent podcast, this time of year — late summer — is a natural opportunity to make important, real changes in your life. In that episode, I talked a lot about how to get clarity about what’s most important to you through building self awareness and tapping into your values. (Listen to “How to Makeover Your Life” for more on that subject).
This clarity is absolutely essential. You have to know where you want to go in order to hit your target. That requires knowing yourself, understanding your hidden obstacles, and being able to set meaningful goals in order to inspire change. This kind of intentional living takes time. When you rush to action before achieving true clarity, that rarely ends well.
But, believe it or not, solid goals and motivation for change does not provide the whole answer, even if you have clarity. As you well know, if you’ve ever had great intentions and then failed to achieve them, there is another important piece of the self-actualization puzzle: planning.
I know that doesn’t sound very exciting or glamorous, does it? Self-discovery, for many people, is gratifying. It’s fun to have those “Aha!” moments, and get excited about creating a sparkling, new reality. In comparison, the organizing and planning phase of change is much more humble.
But without planning, even the most exciting or motivational plans can spin and stall. In order for action to actually happen, clarity and direction must be combined with a solid plan. Following through on these plans can lead to real happiness and a joyful life.
Will Planning Really Lead to Achieving Personal Goals?
Many people who relish the inspirational, exhilarating, self-discovery phase of change wrinkle their noses when I bring up the subject of planning. I get it. It can take some of the wind out of your sails to have to think about the details of the “whens”, “wheres” and “hows”. The planning component of growth is kind of like the accountant following the charismatic “idea guy” around with a calculator saying, “Uh, how exactly is this going to work?” Totally annoying.
And yet, answering THAT very question, “How is this going to work?” is precisely where the rubber meets the road when it comes to actualizing change in your life.
For example, let’s say that during your self-discovery process, you connect with a core value around health that is making you feel inspired to lose some weight and get in shape. Next, you decide that you need to burn more calories than you consume to reach your goal. Now, you might feel ready to take action.
However, you may not know the exact details of your plan. Until you figure out exactly how many calories you need to consume and burn, what you’re going to eat to achieve that, and when you can make it to the grocery store to buy the food to make the healthy recipes you’ve researched, you may not achieve your goal. Not only that, you still need to consider what days and times you can arrange to get to the gym, or when you’ll have time to count out twelve almonds into the little snack bags that you’ll take to work with you to stave off cravings! Until you can answer how to achieve your goals by answering these types of questions, it’s not going to happen. This is where planning can come to the rescue.
Relationships Benefit from Planning, Too!
Planning has broader applications than just helping you achieve your personal goals. Whether you want to become a force of good in the world or improve how you relate to the people around you, planning is critical! Your relationships with others can benefit enormously from planning. It’s one thing to say, “We need to work on our relationship” (even with the best of intentions) and quite another to thoughtfully plan fun dates by figuring out when the babysitter is available, or setting boundaries around time for intimate connection with your partner. Without planning, your best intentions are just nice ideas.
The most exciting, inspirational goals must be broken down into their most banal, unexciting components and then followed through on a consistent basis if you’re actually going to get anywhere. That requires planning.
So if you’re feeling ready to get back to work and start moving forward again, start with your calendar. Creating a routine for yourself that has a time for you to do the most important things is the number one most powerful thing that you can do to get yourself back on track.
When you have a plan to take positive action… you will move forward.
Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth!
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.