Amidst all our stress and disruption due to the pandemic, clients tell me that they don’t want to set goals and make plans for 2021 anymore… ‘Because nothing goes according to plan anyway.’
The lyrics of John Lennon “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” take on new meaning!
Indeed, having a plan is not our guarantee to be able to control everything.
Inevitably change will happen while we are ‘en route’ to the next goalposts.
I like to think of my plan as my steering wheel. While underway to reach the place where I want to go, steering enables me to take the unforeseen bends in the road, to avoid falling trees and collisions, to turn into alternative routes if something is blocking the highway… Often the discoveries along ‘the road less travelled’ contribute something to what I aim to achieve at my destination.
This was not so at an earlier stage in my life. I was brought up to prepare for reaching my goals by diligent planning and timing. I then believed that a clever rational plan was like an insurance policy for things to end well. And within the scheduled time!
As ‘life happened’, today I appreciate more the sustenance that stems from knowing that I am moving in the right direction. That there is not just the one way to go there. There are many ways.
What helped cure me from obsessive planning are my solo car trips through South Africa. Because inevitably, driving the ‘langpad’ – long distances through vast unknown landscapes with sparse habitation – at some point I get lost. Did I miss the right turn-off an hour ago or does it still lie miles ahead? Usually when I become desperate to spot a signpost, there are none.
A few years ago, escaping from the Knysna fires, I returned to PE with a detour through the beautiful mountain scenery between George and the Langkloof. Long hours, after a tiring night surrounded by wildfires. ‘Home’ felt further and further away. No signposts. Until lo and behold a small petrol station stood along a two-street village: the hub of the town, where everyone had all the time in the world to assist me. They welcomed me like a long-lost relative, explaining that I had indeed missed the turnoff and needed to retrace my way an hour back. They described what to expect on that secondary road and assured me that my car would be up to its challenges. Coffee was on the house and then many waves of farewell. They infused me with energy to keep on driving home.
Seldom ‘home’ is more magnetic than after a perilous adventure.
Primarily our purpose is what holds such ‘home magnetism’. Our true purpose is what we need to identify. Before we put the marker on the white board to draw up our plan, we need to become clear about our goals-with-substance. The goals that belong to our home base, calling us so strongly we will not give up lightly and try various roads leading in that direction.
Recently, the South African Freelancers Association asked me to present an online hour about ‘Setting goals with substance in this challenging pandemic year’. Freelance entrepreneurs, who often invest their all in their small business, feel vulnerable. Projects cancelled or on hold means no income. Often working alone, the isolation creates anxiety.
This webinar highlights that ‘Goals with Substance’ – the ones with magnetic power – are the long-term ones. Short-term goals are stepping-stones. These are useful to help us cross a slippery patch or a fast-running river. But we negotiate these stepping-stones to move closer to what lies across.
Goals of Substance are also a meaningful part of the next stage in the growth or development of our business. Small entrepreneurs identify deeply with their business. This implies that we find our Goals of Substance by exploring the identity and the biography of our business and – of course – our own. Each person and each enterprise have unique dynamics and character. A unique sphere of influence.
A life story reveals someone’s dreams and driving force. It clarifies which goals are meaningful for the long haul. A life story also stirs the imagination of how many roads can lead to the desired destination. Exploring this makes planning come to life. A plan then transforms into an act of will.
No-one less than Albert Einstein gave us insight into the connection between exploring and creating: ‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.’
If you are interested in my zoom presentation to Safrea click on the link below.
Safrea is South Africa’s nationwide association of freelancers. Normally members attend regional seminars but due to Covid-restrictions their first national meeting in January 2021was online.