In fact, you should have started yesterday. Don’t worry. If you haven’t, neither have I. The problem with planning, especially if you have mental health issues, is you often can’t see beyond the here and now. This is especially true of depression in all its forms. Planning just seems like a waste of time, doesn’t it?
Well, take it from someone who has planned and then had to re-make plans. Yes, planning can be a waste of time. How are you supposed to know when or if you’ll be able to enact certain things? You can plan to start your business, write your book, find a new job, reach that sales goal, or launch that new product. But, if we’ve collectively learned anything since 2020, we’ve learned that plans often get ruined.
Planning is scary because it can define both failure and success.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the Instagram reels or TikToks about how planning was a game-changer for someone’s life, health, business, etc. They’re almost always perfectly curated and they claim you can too. Ok, fine. If you say so.
For the rest of us mortals, planning is scary.
When you put a goal into writing, it gives you a very defined margin of failure and success. That isn’t a pleasant thought, despite what all the self-help advice claims. When you put a goal into writing, you are staring at failure.
And I don’t know about all of you, but I know enough people out there, myself included, who have trauma from plans that went wrong. Perhaps it was one (or both) parents forgetting something important, or perhaps they tied your behavior or success into a set of plans. Perhaps even it was a diagnosis you received that meant you couldn’t fulfill the goals you once had.
All of those, and more, are perfectly valid reasons for fearing plan-making. I don’t blame you. I can’t think of anyone who would blame you.
But, at some point, you must get over your fear. If you are too afraid to live, you are already dead.
Planning to plan is less intimidating.
So, what is “planning to plan”? Well, it’s simply ideating the planning step. Yes, I made this up. Somewhat. If you know the LOA basics, then this is essentially the same as getting clear on what you want and then visualizing yourself actually doing the work.
Imagine yourself at your favorite thinking spot. Like Winnie the Pooh. If a fictional character can have a spot to think in, then so can you. If you already have one, great. If not, imagine yourself in your ideal thinking spot. See yourself with your planner, whether that’s a basic notebook or something fancier.
Then, see yourself making plans. See yourself setting goals and achieving them. Essentially, you want to psyche yourself into planning.
Sound weird enough to you? Ok, I get it, imagining you’re doing something and actually doing it are two completely different things. Yes, I know that. But planning when you have a mental illness, past trauma, or even are just plain scared isn’t as easy as picking a pretty planner and then writing with colored pens inside it.
If you’re a fan of Howl’s Moving Castle—the novel, not the movie—then you have to do exactly what Howl did. Do something by telling yourself you’re not actually doing it. By the way, if you haven’t read the novel, I can highly recommend it.
Writing a plan without acting on it.
Yes, you can do this. Do you have something in mind that you don’t know if you actually are going to do or be able to do? Write it out. Alleviate the pressure of actually doing it. Plan first and allow yourself to plan without the pressure of following through right that second.
Write it out. Write out your plan from beginning to end. I have plans for several of my novels. I haven’t acted upon them. Yet. But I have outlined them. If your plan is fully formulated, then at least it can be ready when you are ready.
Planning when you don’t have the pressure of executing can be a lot easier. And, you may just find when you get to the end that you are not only able, but you are excited to get started. Remember excitement? It’s that butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling and that endless hum of energy that zings through your veins.
Yes, that feeling. That one when you have just bought a beautiful pen to write with and can’t wait to cover a page in your writing. The one where you just got off of work for that long-awaited vacation and you feel so free you want to roll down all the windows, open the sunroof, and belt out your favorite song while speeding down the highway.
Try it out. Make a plan for something you really want, but don’t know if you can actually do. Plan it out like you are actually going to do it.
Life without a plan is just as stressful as life with a plan.
In fact, life without a plan is more stressful. Even if your plans all go to ruin, at least you may have salvageable material to work with. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of that fence, and I’ll take the side with a plan any day. I think of all the times when I didn’t plan things for the blog, for my business, my writing, my career, or anything else you care to name.
I regret not planning. Because even though plans often have to change, at least you have something to go on when you have to change directions. Then, at least, you aren’t starting from square one.
There’s comfort in having a plan, even if it doesn’t work out. You may think the disappointment is greater, but it’s not. The greater disappointment is looking back on your life and seeking all the times you allowed yourself to stagnant and get stuck because you didn’t plan ahead, or didn’t have an end goal, or, worse still, didn’t see the point because you didn’t want to live that long.
But if you fall into that last category, you know exactly what it is to make a plan. You know the one I’m talking about, too. The one you dread to make. The one which all of us who have suffered from depression make at some point. Yes, I do know what that’s like. I do know. I was there.
If you are in that dark place right now, then please phone a helpline, talk to your religious or spiritual advisor, and get help. You’re worth a better plan than that.
For the rest of you, if you are on the verge or are just listless, plan something nice for yourself, even if it’s just for pretend or for “someday.” Plan to take yourself to lunch. Or to get out of the house, even if it’s to go through the drive-through. Plan an at-home spa treatment, or read that book you always wanted. Make that plan. If you felt happy for a second, what would you do with that moment?
Plan that moment, even if it doesn’t come automatically. But if you have it, and it comes, you have the satisfaction of seeing it fulfilled.
Planning your plans starts now.
Do you have a vision for next year? Do you want to have a vision for next year? Take that first step today and plan your plan, whatever that looks like for you. Imagine yourself planning your year and then exceeding your own expectations.
However you choose to plan, the time to start is now. Not after Christmas Day. Not even the week before Christmas. The longer you put off planning your plan, the longer it will take. Remember, this is a more roundabout way of putting your goals in place. It takes more time.
This is the season of new beginnings, so start envisioning your new beginning now. Even if your vision isn’t fully formed by January 1, you can at least lay the groundwork so that when the dust of the holidays settles, you can move forward with confidence.
And, perhaps, a better idea of where you want to go with your life.
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