Your Path vs. Plan

I’ve sat through my share of plan reviews, worked on strategic plans, created 1 and 5 year personal development plans, and received help from a financial advisor to create a financial plan that addressed all my future financial needs.

Our lives are a conglomeration of plans. In an hour or so I’ll be calling my spouse to ask what she has planned for dinner.

We learn that we can only be successful if we plan for the future.  Most students plan to finish their degree in four years; they plan to find a well paying job when they graduate; they plan to buy a nice car and own a chic condo uptown.

What happens when our plans get messed up: an economic downturn; a health issue?  Or, on the positive side, a new opportunity is presented to us that we haven’t thought of and hasn’t been part of our plan. How will we react?

Maybe we need to ease up a bit and not constantly structure our lives in plans that need to be implemented. What about thinking about our personal and professional lives as a Path rather than a plan?

Here’s an example of what I mean: I have a plan to become a scratch golfer in 5 years. To accomplish this I’m going to have a private lesson once a week, practice an hour after work two times a week and play in a men’s league every Saturday morning.

Five years go by. I’ve stuck to my plan, “to the tee”, so to speak. I’ve never skipped a lesson and never cheated on my practice time. Unfortunately, my handicap is stuck at 6, meaning that I remain 6 strokes away from my goal.  I’m devastated. All the time and money I’ve invested didn’t bring the result I had planned for.

Compare that to my path:  My path is to enjoy the game of golf, try to improve a little bit every time I play, realizing that golf is a very hard game, one you can’t conquer. If I happen to find the right teacher, stay healthy and improve a little bit most days, the satisfaction will come from the growth I’ve had, which just might continue after 5 years.

I’m also on the path of being a life-long-learner, understanding that this path never ends. But the journey requires that I do certain things such as read good books, take furthering education classes now and then, participate in conferences and reduce the time I’m on social media or watching TV.  A plan has an end point; a path doesn’t.

I think this has always been my attitude on life (path versus plan) but it only became crystal clear after reading Carly Fiorina’s new book: “Find Your Way”, which I picked up at a conference I recently attended! In it she writes:

“The truth is, there never was a plan. What there was instead was a path. A path of hard work and commitment to excellence, no matter the circumstances. A path of running toward problems instead of away from them. A path of unlocking the potential of others by collaborating with them to change the order of things. A path of recognizing opportunity when it knocks and having the courage to walk through the door.

You see, when we’re not fixated on our plans for the future, we’re free to focus our attention on the view from where we are. Instead of putting our heads down and staying in our ruts, we can actually see the people around us, the problems around us, the opportunities around us to make a positive contribution and change things for the better. We need to shift from the fretfulness of living on plan to the fulfillment of living on path.”  p. 36

If you’re in college right now working toward your degree and eventually full-time employment, realize that what’s important is not getting that dream job and high salary but getting on the path of learning, growing and taking on more responsibility. If you do this, the interesting, fulfilling work, along with all of the rewards, will come your way.

Sometimes I’m asked: “When do you plan to retire?”  I really don’t have a retirement plan. I enjoy what I’m doing: helping individuals and organizations grow and get better.  This is the path I want to remain on.