By Eric Wentworth, author of A Mindful Career and A Plan for Life, and lecturer of Enso Circle Space
Everyone wants to live their best life.
The need for love, good health, wealth, a purposeful and rewarding career, adventure, knowledge, and a meaningful existence is a universal quest.
It’s also an elusive quest. One that few will fully attain.
According to a Gallup poll, fewer than 6% of all people are happy with every area of their life. And only two in three people are happy with even one of the key categories that are the ingredients in a well-lived life: health, wealth, career, education, where they live, relationships and love, and most important of all . . . themselves.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
--- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French author of The Little Prince
Life has become exponentially more complicated in the 21st Century.
2000 seems so long ago.
In little more than two decades the world has fundamentally changed. Forever. And in dramatic ways few could have imagined.
Here’s a few of the things we have had to adjust to since 2000.
A viral pandemic killing nearly a million Americans.
The Great Recession.
The September 11 terrorist attacks.
Tesla and electric vehicles.
Our first black president.
Audible and eBooks.
Black Lives Matter.
The tech crash in 2000.
The rise of Amazon.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An attack on the Capitol (by Americans).
Offshore tax havens.
Student debt reaching $1.5 trillion.
The Tea Party.
Fox News and cable TV programs.
The Sony Playstation.
The Fukishima meltdown.
The Affordable Care Act.
A tsunami killing 220,000 people.
The killing of Osama bin Laden.
iPad and other tablets.
The war against Ukraine by Vladimir Putin.
And I’m sure I’ve missed a few things.
The point is Americans have been inundated with change . . . and have had to adjust and adapt to these changes. It’s a LOT to absorb and assimilate into life.
There is more disruptive change at this point in history than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.
And it all pales in comparison to what we know lies ahead in the next twenty years.
Many of the changes are good things that make our lives richer. But even positive change can also cause a lot of stress, loss, and pain for many people. And the negative changes can be devastating.
1. THE LACK OF PLANNING IS HAVING A MOMENT.
Because there has been so much change in our lives, it sometimes seems as if it has immobilized many people. Why plan anything when it could (and probably will) change?
So, it’s become somewhat fashionable, especially among young people, to abandon the concept of planning. It’s bolstered by the “live in the moment” thinking that is so much a part of a mindful approach to living. Living in the now is a good thing. But it doesn’t negate the need to plan. The two are not incompatible. Planning and mindfulness work well together.
The two seemingly opposing concepts are essential for either one to work.
To create a good plan, it’s necessary to be aware of who and where you are now. It provides a solid launch pad for creating a powerful, well-conceived plan for the future.
Letting life just “happen” usually doesn’t work out well. Living by accident is just that, an accident waiting to happen.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
--- Benjamin Franklin
Drifting through life is more the norm than not, which is why so many people are vaguely dissatisfied or deeply unhappy.
It’s also why millions of people are “seekers” who often follow self-help gurus or cult leaders who promise that if they just wish for what they want hard enough or follow their teachings that miraculous things will happen for them.
2. THERE’S NO “SECRET” TO A SUCCESSFUL LIFE.
Po Bronson, the best-selling author of What Do You Want to Do with Your Life? said this about The Secret, the international best-selling book and video that features an array of self-help gurus talking about the Law of Attraction. “The Secret makes false claims that you can just dust off your fantasies and live your dream. This is selling transformation irresponsibly.” He calls these wishful thinking books, “the modern dream machine industry.”
There is a process to manifest what you want in life, but their solution doesn’t work. It only gets people excited that they can finally achieve their dreams simply by thinking about them hard enough. Then the inevitable frustration sets in when the wishful thinking doesn’t produce results.
Be honest with yourself for a moment. If you could simply use your thoughts to “attract” fame, fortune, good health, and happiness, wouldn’t we all be famous, rich, successful, and happy? Clearly, most Americans are not. And if you examine the people who are Law of Attraction junkies, very few of them ever achieve their dreams. They live on the hope they will, but not the actuality.
Your mind has a powerful influence on outcomes and can be instrumental in manifesting what you want in life. But the process is more complicated than simply wishing for your dreams to come true.
Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, mirrors my own feelings when she said, “I’m very wary of anyone who comes along with a message and says, ‘It’s very easy. All you have to do is read my book and take my seminar and change your manner of thinking. I think that if that was necessarily true, then none of us would ever have lost a loved one to cancer. There would be no death, there would be no suffering, and there would be no injustice.
When people read the book or take a seminar, they get that first wave of euphoria where they think, ‘Oh, I want to change my attitude. I want to change my life.’ Then two weeks later, surprise, their life is still the same. Then they feel worse about themselves.” Gibert continues, “There are self-help books that are beneficial to people and there are self-help books that are written by opportunistic idiots who do nothing.”
It's important to separate from the landslide of content what is true and authentic and helpful . . . and what is not. If you create your plans with bogus input, you will be frustrated in how poorly it works for you. As they say about computer programming in Silicon Valley, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
--- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
Without going too far into it, manifesting what you want calls for a plan to begin the process.
You need to be clear about what you want.
You need to be self-aware and know what you want is right for you.
You need to be open to opportunities.
You must be sensitive to your environment and people to see possibilities.
You must know what things you can do to help make the process work.
You need to do the work to reach your goals---and measure results to gauge your progress.
And you must have a confident mindset of expectation that it will happen for you.
Finally, you must “pull the trigger” and take action to complete the process.
In a nutshell that’s how manifestation works.
“Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that sets sail with no destination.”
---Fitzhugh Dodson, Psychologist, author of The You That Could Be
3. BUT WHAT IF THINGS CHANGE AND MY PLAN DOESN’T WORK.
As they say, the only thing you can be certain of is that things will change.
But it still makes sense to create a plan. Just be sure to be flexible enough to change your plan and pivot in another direction. Or even abandon your plan to start a new plan.
Remember, one of the key values of having a plan is that you don’t feel rudderless. You have a direction and things you can do to actuate the goals you set. Planning brings into focus what you want to achieve and brings into your field of attention the things that will help you make your goals happen.
It’s like if you decide to buy a Volkswagen bus. Suddenly you will see Volkswagen buses everywhere. Because your brain’s attention is now attuned to a specific desire (goal).
You could even say that working a plan that doesn’t work helps teach you about what does work. About what you really want. A plan that takes a detour or doesn’t work at all often can point you in the direction of an exciting new opportunity that wasn’t on your radar screen previously. The effort you put into your plans will enable you to be more ready to take on new challenges successfully because many of the core elements will remain intact no matter what you eventually decide to do.
“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.”
--- Brian Tracy. Motivational speaker, author of Maximum Achievement
The truth is we can’t live as we lived before. At this time in history, it’s necessary to hit the reset button. Explore new directions. Live an authentic life.
You can’t live like you’ve lived before and be happy or successful.
The world is changing in fundamental, significant ways that will impact everything you do for the rest of your life. Many of the old rules no longer apply. Those who do not adapt to the new way of living in the 21st century may squander their life.
“There is a time when we must choose the course we will follow or the relentless drift of events will make the decisions for you.”
--- Herbert Prochnow, author of Meditations of the Ten Commandments
You cannot simply hope for the best. You cannot close your eyes to the change that’s going on all around you. You can’t hide from your responsibility to own and direct your life by saying, “What will be will be” or “God will take care of me.”
As my late mother always said, “God helps those who help themselves.”
4. PLANNING REQUIRES CHANGE.
“If we worked on the assumptions that what is accepted as ture really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”
--- Orville Wright, Inventor
Just the act of creating a plan for your life will, for most people, be a catalyst for change. Plans have a way of stimulating creative thought and actions.
Jim Rohn, author of 7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness, writes, “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
To embrace change and create an authentic plan going forward will require an acceptance to self-examine your deepest held beliefs and ingrained biases, prejudices, and habits. It’s hard work. But living a life that is disappointing is harder.
Deepak Chopra, author of Super Brain and many other books, has said, “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
To create a plan that works you’ll need to break out of your comfort zone and evaluate input that may contradict your firmly held beliefs . . . your confirmation bias.
“Open your mind and clear it of all thoughts that would deceive.”
--- Dr. Helen Schucman, Psychologist, author of A Course in Miracles
Being open and flexible to adopting new ideas and evolving circumstances provides the most opportunity to succeed. So, before you create a plan do the hard inner work and honest self-examination to be sure your plan has a good chance of working.
Walter Kerr, author of The Decline of Pleasure wrote, “If I were required to put it into a single sentence of my own explanation of the state of our hearts, heads, and nerves, I would do it this way: We are vaguely wretched because we are leading half-lives, half-hearted, and with only one-half of our minds actively engaged in making contact with the universe around us.”
As Socrates famously said, “A life unexamined is a life not worth living.”
5. PLANNING CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE. AND YOU.
So, before you discount the worthiness of planning. Or think it’s too much work. Or that plans just seem pointless in a chaotic world. Remember that the success of the plan is entirely up to you. And if the plan doesn’t work as planned, it may lead you to even greater things.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
--- Alan Lakein, author of How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life