Have a plan

I just got done reviewing one of my big books for 2013. I think I’m going to make that a regular feature here on the JBE since I’ll be reading one of these kinds of books each month.

The topic of that book dealt with a subject that wasn’t about happy thoughts. In fact some people might consider limits to growth and energy challenges as downright depressing. At the same time, failing to be proactive about the future is dangerous in my opinion. Many Americans and worse, many organizations (and even companies) seem overly content with strategies weighted heavily on the denial side, or pushing planning out into the future. Procrastination is no longer a virtue in my book.

I’m not a fan of false optimism.  The idea that positive thoughts are some kind of magic talisman is an affront to me. Being a realist doesn’t exile you to a life without hope, either.

During a recent conversation, the topic of how to live in a dysfunctional world and still maintain a commitment to personal growth was broached. This person said to me, “how can you be optimistic and committed to moving forward when the future seems so uncertain?”

That question got me to thinking. How do we marry the concept of personal growth and moving ahead in a world where difficulties and uncertainties are all around us? I guess the question could be, why don’t we just give up?

There’s an old adage that says, “hope for the best but plan for the worst.” I think this saying is chock full of wisdom because we never know what tomorrow will bring. Preparation helps us better cope with the fallout that often visits with adversity.

There’s a danger in today’s social media driven world that everyone else’s life seems better than our own. Because people tend to present only the best parts of their lives, Facebook “friends” can appear prettier, smarter, wealthier, etc. Facebook’s a bit like Hollywood, I think. You only see the glittery side of the set props, not the back. There’s also the danger of falling into a trap of being Pollyannaish and papering over life’s grittier elements.

Planning matters in life. I actually think planning and thinking strategically are two of the most important things we can be engaged in. Having a plan and then working that plan is essential for success in whatever task or project is currently front and center in your life.

One of my concerns for people that I know and interact with is that they are living in the shadow of ideas and trajectories that were fine for the world of the 20th century, but the global shifts have rendered many of these ideas obsolete.

It’s still very early in 2013. What are your plans for the next week? What are you going to do to learn something new? Acquiring some basic living skills might be a solid step forward. I also believe it provides people with a sense of empowerment.

Adult education is a great place to learn some of these skills, as is your local cooperative extension service. A seasoned citizen is often more than happy to pass along their accumulated wisdom that they are rarely asked about.

Yes, hope is essential for a healthy outlook. Being clear about the world and staying grounded in reality doesn’t mean that you’ve abandoned hope, either.

Plans and contingencies help you weather the worst. Having neither means every crisis potentially can turn into a disaster.

Invest some time framing up a life plan for yourself and do it sooner rather than later.