When Plans Fail Before They’ve Started

After a bumpy 2016, I started this new year with great energy and hope for personal renewal. I had goals I wanted to achieve and believed nothing could stop me. After all, last year was in the past and its story was now closed. I could write a new story that started on January 1st and never look back.

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. On that first day of the new year my wife and I both fell ill. And, mind you, I’m not just talking about some common cold with coughing and sniffles. We were hit hard. I was so sick I couldn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time and then I suffered from complete exhaustion all day long. Yet my wife was even worse. She ended up in the ER twice and finally was hospitalized for a few days. So much for writing that new story backed by energy and hope.

But wait! Since when is it ever too late to rewrite your story even 10 days into the new year? I mean, why should my life defined by every bump in the road or every time I was taking off my intended path? These are questions many of us wrestle with, especially this time of year when we may have already broken our resolutions or been tripped up by the unexpected. These events often take our minds to the stories we’ve heard about failure among humanities greatest – Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ludwig van Bethooven, and Michael Jordan to name a few.

I recall reading a story about the Brontë siblings, each of whom were master writers before the age of 30. If you’ve ever read any of their books or poems, this was truly an astonishing feat. They wrote with the vocabulary and storytelling skills of authors twice their age. Though young in life and experience, they were able to captivate the human spirit in prose and poetry like few of their time. But how did they do it?

The story goes that the four of them – Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell – began building stories together at a very young age. Like most children, they drew on their own experiences and fantasies to weave tales of human trials. Together, they would work tireless to improve their stories through iteration after iteration. They never saw any effort as a failing but rather as a starting point for a better version of the story. They did not get stuck believing that any attempt was a poor attempt but instead focused on what they could improve. And of course, it showed in the quality of their later writings and in each of them becoming accomplished on their own in adulthood. It’s this kind of determination toward continuous improvement that I would like to have mark my life’s efforts.

So after a brief moment of brooding I decided to hit the “reset” button and see if I could tell a better version of my story. After all, helping others reimagine their story and discover forward movement is the cornerstone of my business. The only question was, where do I start? I knew I had to keep this simple or I would fall into my normal “over-thinking mode”, and that would suck up my energy and hopefulness as I try to do everything perfect.

I asked myself “What would you do if this was a weight-loss regimen you started and it somehow got hijacked (maybe by a classic Super Bowl weekend of hot wings, nachos, and potato salad)? The answers were pretty simple.

Assess Your Position

You need to know where you are and what you ought to be doing. If this were a diet, you would weigh yourself again, establish how many pounds you wanted to lose, and determine a calorie input and calorie burning plan. But you wouldn’t start off by cutting your consumption down to carrots and water. Nor would you stop and clean the dishes to burn calories.

This is about your life goals. Granted, the first inclination may be to clean off your desk, sort through emails, or order some office supplies. Those are just chores and not what defines where you’re trying to go. So for me, I knew that I needed to make a list and then separate those things that describe my identity as opposed to the little things that support it. In other words, if coaching is my life goal, what are the tasks and activities that make me a better coach and what other tasks just support those goals as a business?

Limit Your Intake

Like getting distracting from any diet and exercise plan, the next change is to adjust what you are consuming. In this case, I’m referring to the intake of thoughts, ideas, and opinions from the outside world. I tend to read a lot, get advise from associates, and listen to radio bits and podcasts. Yet I knew that was just going to muddy up my thinking and my way journey to get back on track.

The last thing we need when we are trying to regain focus is outside noise. And let’s face, thoughts and opinions are available at every turn. But chances are we already have a good idea where to start. I certainly did. So I decided to start with what was already stirring around in my head. I already had ideas about what I needed to be doing. Even if that was only meditating on who I want to be, that would be more than enough. Forturnately, I had far more already stirring in my head.

Point Yourself Toward the Direction You’ve Been Avoiding

For me, this can be the hardest task of all. If I was in the gym I would immediately be able to tell you the exercises I would prefer not to do. The same is true for my diet. There may be foods I absolutely refuse to limit – coffee, for one – that may not help me toward achieving my goals. But change and transformation demand radical adjustments.

There are those things that are part of your career and calling that come naturally. And the natural pull is to point yourself toward them and knock out as many as possible just to feel like you’ve regained momentum. But here’s my reality (and maybe yours): Those are not the things that cause personal growth. They are things you can get done when you are down to your last one percent of energy. Whether they are part of your core identity or your menial chores, we both find them easy to do.

So this is where I find I have to really push myself. Isolating myself from the outside noise and determining to make some progress against those areas I have been avoiding. For me, writing this blog is a big one. Reaching out to people outside my normal sphere is another.

Whatever those things might be for you, it’s never too late or too often to hit the reset button. In fact, there’s a good chance your next attempt toward telling your story will be a far better one that the last one. I know mine will. And I’m going to keep resetting until my story has been told in its own unique and refined way.

Now on to the next peak.

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