Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have received feedback from many people that I am a good planner. I've often rejected this compliment because it seems like a softer way of saying someone is uptight or boring.  Spontaneous people have the reputation of being more fun. Planners are seen as the antithesis of spontaneous and therefore not fun. Even worse in the work world, being called a good planner is often a compliment for someone who is not considered a "high-level thinker" i.e. not management material.

As I've reflected on the type of planning I do, however, I have come to realize that it is a very high level thinking skill. Through this reflection, I've developed the following definition: effective planning is the ability to project your mind in the future in order to influence outcomes in a direction you desire. Planning requires the mental acuity to be able to identify and evaluate the many possible pathways to an outcome. It also requires the flexibility and the humility to understand that many things that happen along the way are uncontrolled variables that may affect intended outcomes in unexpected ways.

I grew up in an environment where my primary care givers consistently told me all the things that I couldn't do. There were a lot of artificial limits placed on my life at an early age that were rooted in fear or in a rigid sense of how things were supposed to be (for example, girls don't play sports). Because of these limits, I developed a strong sense of determination to work doggedly to accomplish the things I want to accomplish, and a refusal to accept barriers or detours as a permanent "no" to an outcome I want. There will always be challenges. A good plan will address these. In fact, you don't need plans for things that are easy for you. In those cases the logical steps to get where you want to go are already ingrained in you.

Planning is for the hard things, the unclear things, the scary things, and the things that are so important that they are entwined with your life's purpose. A good plan is a declaration of strength and purpose in the face of uncertainty. A good plan says, "This is my life and I have no intention of wasting it."

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