If there’s one simple lesson in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s this: plan your future.
He uses the case of building a house. You don’t just turn up with a bunch of labourers and a pile of bricks and build something. You get an architect and talk about how you want your house to look before a single brick is laid.
If you don’t do that, you’ll almost certainly end up with a pile of rubble (oh, and it will probably look awful too).
Trouble is, it takes far more effort to plan stuff than to just do it, so most of us “just do it” (and prove once again it’s how to get nowhere fast).
But there’s one area that we do plan – and we do it really really well. It’s called the ‘todo list’.
The irony is that we find it far simpler to write the list than actually do the things on the list.
And that’s because the todo list is not a plan at all. It’s just a list. There’s no beginning, middle and end. To do lists go on and on and on.
So how do you get a plan that will get you to where you want to be without wasting all that time you fear you’re going to waste because you’ve got no experience (or faith) in whatever it is you plan to do?
The answer is to look for help or advice from people who’ve done it.
And the first step on that road is to find someone you trust. Someone you believe in. Someone who has clearly and demonstrably done what you want to do.
That step in itself is the first step of your plan. Can you see how this works? It’s not just someone else’s proven plan you’re after, it’s your very own plan on how to find and implement the right plan for you.
In other words, to create a guaranteed workable plan, you first need to create a plan of how you’re going to achieve that.
And if at this point you start saying to yourself something like “well, that all sounds far too complicated, and besides, I’ve been told more than once to ‘keep it simple stupid’…”, – that’ll be why you’ll still be doing the same thing a year from now.
To get out of it once and for all, you need to make a commitment to yourself. And to do that you absolutely 100% must start with hope. A huge great wad of the stuff.
Where do you get that kind of hope?
It comes from you. It always did. The things you were desperate to have as a child, you got because you committed to getting them, and every time you did that, you started with a plan.
If you were lucky, you started with mum and dad. You’d already learnt their triggers. You had a pretty good idea what made them happy, what made them angry, and what made them sad.
You knew your audience. And it didn’t take long before you worked out your story about how important it was for them to trust in you and give you what you wanted.
And when you succeeded, you forgot about how you made it happen. The job was done. You no longer cared. And there’s a good chance the novelty of whatever you got wore off too.
And next thing we’re all grown up, and if we’re lucky we have our own kids, and before long they demand (and usually get) the things they want. And on it goes.
Except as adults we’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid. So that is one area you can fix right now. It’s a mindset thing. Forget all the pomp, ceremony and stress of pretending to be grown up, and get yourself back to being a kid again.
That’s where you’ll find the hope you need to get the things you really want in life.