What Gets in the Way of Planning Our Lives

I’m a planner- I can’t help it. Most people who know me would use “organized” and “planner” in the top 10 (likely 5) words to describe me. I’m a planner in all areas of my life except one- my Life (capital L). Not the small or medium life stuff- the big Life stuff. What to do with my life or otherwise known as my “Life Plan.” Most people would call this a Career Plan but I can’t get behind separating career and life- it’s all just life.

I’ve been seeking my life purpose and plan since I was a teenager. I always yearned to know the answer. I know many people are comfortable without having the answers (or needing a plan), but it always bothered me that my purpose wasn’t clear. It’s like a road trip with no destination in mind. For planner types like me that is NOT my idea of a good time. It feels very unproductive and inefficient.

To be clear – I’ve had a successful career- I went after jobs, projects, and challenges that made sense in the moment and that turned out well in many cases. But it wasn’t connected to a larger plan of any kind. I didn’t need a 20-year plan or a year-by-year plan or even months planned out. I just wanted purpose —my “why” would be nice — some key principles and goals.

To relate this concept to business- it’s like executing tactics that are not connected to goals or a strategy. Tactics may feel like they make sense… but do they really? Hard to say if they don’t ladder up to goals.

It wasn’t until I received the shocking news that I had breast cancer that I finally got serious about my life plan. At 35 with two young kids, I went on disability from work and began my most important job yet- crushing cancer. During that time my Dad had a stroke and brain surgery, and we lost two important people in our family. It was an incredible journey that brought immense perspective (a separate post in itself).

My incredible surgeon, Dr. Katherine Kopkash, who has been my angel and has been with me since Day 1, said she supported me not working through chemo, surgery, radiation, but I had to provide her with a list of things I would do. The research shows when you stay busy you have a better outcome. You need purpose in your life otherwise you’re just a walking cancer patient. She was just getting to know me so I told her as a queen of list making and being productive – I was all over this. I ran my cancer journey like a business, formulating a team of people: doctors, therapists of various disciplines, friends and family to support us, and I used all our tactics to build up to the bigger goal: finding my big “L” plan.

It took nine months to crush cancer and during this time I invested a lot of energy into defining my purpose: I want to help people define what they want out of life, however broad or narrow, bold or unexpected, loose or detailed, simple or complex that may be for them. I don’t want people to wait for bad things like cancer or death to force them to answer what their life is worth living for.

I share what I went through not to gain sympathy but just to be honest about ALL it took for me to get to defining a plan, and that’s coming from the planner. It takes effort, thought, and patience. It will always be a work in progress but now I have the big questions answered. I don’t want to be put up on a pedestal as someone who has “it all figured out.” I do want to be known as someone full of empathy and understanding for those who don’t have a plan yet.

There are a lot of understandable reasons why we don’t have a Life Plan because a lot can get in our way:

We don’t know how to start or where to begin, and if we do have an idea in mind to start a new career or business idea, we don’t know how to start in a reasonable way while balancing our current life. The ideas or dreams we have don’t seem possible so we don’t think it can be our reality. Often times other people’s expectations of us get in the way because we focus too much on what we “should” do.

For so many reasons we don’t allocate the time it takes to do the work (and it does take work). Perhaps we continue to put others needs before our own. For many, we’re just trying to keep our eyeballs above water at work and we barely have time to eat lunch let alone answer hard questions about our future. Or maybe, your career is going just fine and it has always worked out so there isn’t a great need to have a plan for the future. And it’s easier to know what we DON’T want, but often we don’t know what we DO want.

I’m thrilled to be part of the Happy Spectacular team because our mission is to help people answer their own (big L) Life questions and the small ones too. There’s a proven process to break through all the things that get in the way to find your answers.

I’ve heard the comparison that working with a coach is like visiting an eye doctor because they both help you see better. They help you see the bigger picture, sharpen a fuzzy view on your capabilities, passions, and dislikes into a clear picture. From a life of black, white, and gray to one of color. Bring dreams and hopes that live in your imagination to become your reality that you can see, feel, and experience in your life.

The biggest takeaway I want you to leave with (and you’d better pay attention because you don’t have to go through cancer to learn it) is that you need to start making decisions and defining a plan for your Life. It starts with making a plan to make a plan and we can help you start – because now that I’ve found my purpose, I’d love to help you find yours.

 

Becky Thalmann

Becky is a global client partnership manager, career guru and culture change agent at Google. She is also a career coach for Happy Work Spectacular Life helping people find exactly that- their happy work and spectacular life...whatever that means for them.

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