“Focus. Focus. Focus.” That’s what the expert in strategic planning said at a meeting I recently attended. “If you’re going to be good at strategic planning, “ he continued, “you need to determine what things you will do in the next three to five years, as well as what things you will not do.”
That got my attention. I’m a list-driven kind of person. If it’s on the list, it gets done. If it’s not . . . well, then it’s pretty much up for grabs. The problem is the size of my list. Judging by its length, I must be laboring under some sort of super human delusion that I am Wonder Woman. In reality, it is simply not possible to accomplish every item on the list.
How many of us, I wondered go through the motions of our everyday existence without much consideration for whether or not our activities actually fit with what we want personally and professionally over the next three to five years. If strategic planning is important for business – according to the experts, a good strategic plan will yield greater success and a higher profit, then it might be even more important for one’s day-to-day life.
I have a good friend who is especially good at modeling this sort of thing. She has a responsible job by day, but by night she paints. Although she already had some training as an artist, over the last few years I have seen her say no to some things (e.g., social media) in order to make time for painting. She has also taken painting classes, arranged for studio space, and participated in a number of shows. I have been impressed with the results and look forward to owning one of her paintings soon. Her ability to say “no” to some things has allowed her to say “yes” to an artistic ability that rejuvenates her soul and brings joy to others.
I know other families who make a conscious decision to curtail the time and effort associated with gift giving during the holidays. They are not anti-Christmas. They simply want to focus on being together, having fun, and enjoying the company of others more than they do on shopping, spending and wrapping. To do so, they make a conscious decision not to buy presents for each other.
Let’s be honest. We actually make these kinds of decisions all the time—but not consciously. We say we want to be more fit, but then find ourselves stuck in the recliner watching TV. We say we are bored and over-committed to things we no longer enjoy, but fail to say “no” in a way that would allow us time to embrace a new endeavor. Our closets are crammed with clutter, but we can’t bring ourselves to make space for something new. In so many ways we are making choices about our lives, but not with much thought or intention.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We are programmed for routine and ritual. Perhaps that’s why it can be so difficult to make a conscious decision about things we will no longer do. At the same time, if I continue to insist on certain practices and habits it’s becoming very clear to me that the list will only grow longer and I will become more exhausted and dissatisfied. Perhaps it’s time to do a little personal strategic planning that begins with a list of things I will stop doing . . . at least for a while.
Inspired to compose a list,
Dr. Jennifer Baker
P.S. To see more paintings go to www.pennygordonchumbleyartist.com