Success & Abundance
Got a Plan?
Mr. Organized rethinks his world.
Published: December 31, 2012
Make sure your plans have room for growth and grace.
The first New Year’s Eve that my first wife, Miranda, and I spent together did not go according to plan. We had started dating in October, and by our third date we both knew for certain that we would be married. Miranda moved in a week later. The week after that she met my mother and brother for the first time. The next day I asked Miranda if she would spend Christmas with me and my family. “Your mother and brother have already invited me,” she said.
Things were moving fast.
Miranda and I had received several invitations to some great New Year’s parties. Hesitantly I told Miranda I preferred to spend New Year’s Eve quietly, taking time to recall gratitude for the old year and planning ahead for the next. “I’m happy with that,” said Miranda. We discovered we both enjoyed the stillness of New Year’s Eve, and we wanted to be sober, quiet, and alone together. I suggested that in the lead-up to New Year’s Eve we both compile a list of gratitude and future plans to share. We appeared to be on the same page.
On New Year’s Eve, Miranda and I shared our gratitude for all the gifts of the past year, including gratitude for meeting each other. Next we shared our future plans. I was so excited because I had not shared my planning system with anyone before. First, I showed Miranda my five-year plan, with categories for “work,” “family,” “health,” “money,” “spirituality,” “travel,” and so on. Next I shared my three-year plan, my one-year plan, my quarterly plan, my monthly plan, and my weekly plan. Miranda appeared to be as fascinated as I was until she suddenly blurted, “You are freaking me out!”'
Miranda’s style was different from mine.
“No plans!” I said, in disbelief. “How do you know what to do?”
“Well,” said Miranda, nervously, “I pray every day.”
“And?” I asked.
“I believe in grace,” she said.
Miranda had left Australia on a one-way ticket to England because she “knew” she had to. She had only $400 to her name, but she “knew” she would be looked after. She had given up a prestigious job as a television newscaster because she believed that life had another plan for her. Miranda is a talented, successful woman whose wisdom and grace inspires everyone she meets.
Planning had always played a major part in my game plan for success. The upside of my planning was that I was exceptionally focused, well organized, and very efficient. The disciplined execution of my plans had kept me very busy. By the age of 27, I had founded two health clinics; authored three books; lectured internationally; run a private practice; and given over 1,000 television, radio, and press interviews. I believed in the power of planning.
“Every day of your next five years is booked,” said Miranda. “How can God do anything with your schedule?”
The downside of too many plans is that there is no room for anything else. There is no “room at the inn” to welcome new birth and new ideas. There is no space to accommodate new gifts and better plans. Ironically, too many good plans can block higher inspiration and greater success. Overplanning can exert too much control and not enough openness. The calendar is full already. The mind is closed. The heart has a sign over it that reads “Do Not Disturb.” There is no improvisation. Grace waits on our welcome, but we have too much to do.
Sometimes a plan is good. I have since thought a lot about the psychology of planning and the wisdom of plans. Clearly there can be many benefits to having a good plan. For instance, a good plan can support vision, unify intentions, and also provide necessary direction for the journey. A good plan can also sustain a person’s faith and enthuse a weary heart in difficult times. However, every good plan must be a servant, not a master. It must yield to a greater teacher, to new inspiration, and to a better way when necessary. In business today, the old three-year plan is called a 1+1+1 plan, which means that it is constantly up for review.
Sometimes no plan is good. A vice president of the World Bank once told me he owed his success to having never had a career plan. He said, “My mother taught me to trust that God has much better plans for me than I do. The first thing she taught me to read was the words on a dollar bill, ‘In God we trust.’” He also told me, “I wake up every day knowing today will be wonderful.” He has absolute faith that each day will provide gifts for him and also opportunities to serve. “God is my CEO,” he says. This uncommon thinking may sound odd to some, and yet he maintains it is the key to his success in leading a global enterprise.
Sometimes a new plan is good. Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your old plans in order to allow something better to happen. This is especially important today in a world that moves so fast and changes so frequently. Sometimes our old winning formulas and our old plans simply stop working for us. What made you a success in the past - your independence, your busyness, your work ethic, your always being in control, for example - may in fact cause you to fail in the future. Sometimes you have to be willing to ditch the old trip planner and travel the open road.
Robert Holden, Ph.D., is the Director of The Happiness Project and Success Intelligence. Robert coaches leaders in business, education, politics and healthcare.