Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What We Need Here, Is a Plan

I just read an article in Self magazine about the importance of having a 5 year plan. Here's a quote:

"Do You Need a Five-Year Plan?

According to research, the answer is yes. But the key to a happy life isn't strategizing to snag the corner office. What is crucial: creating a road map for living in a more meaningful, fulfilling way, however you define that. "

Experts tell us we are much more likely to accomplish something if we write it down. Putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen) turns our hopes and dreams into goals. Goals can be accomplished. You may realize a dream at some point, but not without baby steps that keep you moving in the right direction. Sit quietly and really think about what you want your life to look like at the end. I did this many years ago at a time when little of my life was what I envisioned. I had extra weight I wanted to shed, watched too  much TV, and dreamed of travel but made no plans to do it. I felt out of control. I decided that over time small efforts could add up. My mantra became "Something is better than nothing." You are responsible for yourself.  Try not to think about all the things you can't control in the world and make some small changes in your own life that move you closer to the person you want to be.

Your goals at this time in your life may be to be a better parent, stop eating so much junk food, or get your house in order. You don't have to have "Climb Mt. Everest" on your list. Personally, I'm not interested in that, or running a marathon or starting a business. Learning to do one new thing or deciding to read more are worthy efforts. I know lots of people who would benefit from making "Stop complaining" a goal! 

When my children were younger the list looked something like this: 

Make sure the kids have a firm grasp of all the material we've covered in home school.
Design a curriculum that integrates all our studies.
Teach the kids to do their own laundry.
Read a dozen classics aloud to them.
Make a quilt.
Organize the closets.
Be more consistent with discipline.
Update landscaping in front yard. 
Read classics I've missed.
Do an in depth Bible study.
Paint the bedrooms.
Visit as many local museums as possible.
Make more time to spend with friends.
Plant an herb garden.
Join a book club.
Start walking everyday. 
Write in my journal more consistently. 

You can see that I was at a very different time in my life. The goals I had were very home/child centered. The list has changed over the years. Here's a list of some of the things I accomplished in the last 5 years:

Watched my kids grow into adults I'm proud of. (This topped my list, always)
Planned and executed a wedding. (Some things MUST to be done. Do your best.)
Raised baby chickens.
Raised a puppy.
Lost those extra pounds.
Took a Greek class.
Went to Italy. Twice.
Started a blog.
Started another blog.
Started a third blog. (That's the limit to what I can keep up with.)
Climbed to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. 
Went to Greece.
Taught myself enough Italian to get along in Italy. 
Survived a life threatening illness in a foreign country. (That wasn't on any list.)
Sent my son to China.
Installed a large garden.
Trained a dog to get the paper.
Built a compost bin and started composting.
Bought a lottery ticket.(Because I'd never done it--I didn't win.)
Painted a picture. 
Renewed lost friendships (thanks Facebook), strengthened old ones, and invested in new ones. 
Took Yoga and Pilates.
Had an article published in the paper.
Started recycling. 
Volunteered at the Literacy Council.
Took a cooking class in New Orleans.
Went to Mexico and Central America.
Climbed Mayan ruins in Belize.
Went snorkeling on a coral reef.
Read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 
Learned to say "Yes." more than I say "No."
Learned to be a tad more comfortable outside my comfort zone.

You'll also notice that some things on that top list morphed into other things as time went on. Journaling became blogging. The herb garden led to a larger garden and composting and chickens. Walking every day not only helped me lose the weight but got me in shape for things like hiking volcanoes and snorkeling. Even your small actions can have snowballing effects. So what might the list for the next 5 years look like? Here's the short version so far:

Go skydiving.
Take a class.
Learn to knit.
Keep bees.
Complete the Master Gardener course.
Pitch a book idea to a publisher.
Refinish a piece of furniture.
Go to Europe.
Read War and Peace.
Maintain my current weight.
Become a better writer.
Take a hot air balloon ride. 
Nurture friendships and be a loyal, trustworthy friend. 
Help other people realize their goals.
Say "Thank you" more!

Nope. Still not interested in climbing Everest--Kilimanjaro, maybe.

 Having trouble with your list? Visit someone in a nursing home and ask them about all the things they wish they'd done...all the things they never got around to.

Then get busy thinking about all you could accomplish in the next five years.

I'd hate for you to wake up one day and realize this adventure, called life, passed you by. 

Happy goal setting!

Click HERE to read the Self article.

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