Have You Made This Planning Mistake? (Probably)

Where do you want to be a year from now?

If you’re like most people I ask, you immediately related your circumstances a year from now to your circumstances today.

You did a fast & dirty projection from your current position in life and business to your likely position in life and business in 1 year.

Maybe you embellished a bit. Maybe you stretched. Maybe you added in a few wouldn’t-it-be-nice-ifs. But, most likely, you envisioned something based on where you are right now, in this very moment, and at this very trajectory.

Yet, that’s not the question I asked.

I asked, “Where do you want to be a year from now?” not, “Where do you think you’ll be a year from now?”

Part of my answer to that question is that I want to be living in a modern cabin with large, sunny windows and a view of tamaracks and rolling hills in the western Flathead Valley.

There is no way I can project or predict that as a likely outcome given my current circumstances.

And the truth is that it is highly unlikely that I’ll be living in said cabin come this time next year (it’s on our 5-year plan). The fact that it’s unlikely doesn’t need to get me down.

Knowing what I really, really want is an extremely valuable piece of information when it comes to my planning.

What can do I with this information? Three things immediately come to mind:

  • I can set up a dedicated savings account for a down payment on the future cabin
  • I can plan a month of living in the Flathead over the summer to get a better feel for it outside the “vacation bubble”
  • I can seek out more local activities that are similar to the things I do when I’m in Montana (see previous letters about purchasing kayaks)

Knowing what I want—unattached from my current circumstances—gives me the information I need to move in that direction next year, even if I won’t end up at the final destination.

My orientation is toward my desire.

However, when you project where you’re going to be next year based on where you’re currently at, you end up continuing to move yourself in the direction you’re already going.

Your orientation is to maintain your present circumstances.

Now, that’s not necessarily a problem if everything is hunky-dory and you’re on the path you really, really want to be on (go you!).

It becomes a problem if you want to make significant change.

And a desire to make significant change doesn’t mean that you’re unhappy or dissatisfied with life or business right now. It only means that there is something else you want.

(This is a good time to take a deep breath and remind yourself that ​wanting​ something different from what you have is okay.)

Maybe you want to make significantly more money. Maybe you’re looking to upend your business model and create value in a completely different way. Maybe you want to start a second business, carve out more free time, or hire a team.

Over and over again, I’ve seen business owners put outcomes like these on hold—consciously or unconsciously—because they continue to orient their plans to their present circumstances instead of choosing the projects, mindset, and approach that orients them to where they want to end up.

They make it harder and harder to create real change in their lives or businesses because they anchor themselves to where they’re at instead of where they want to be.

And this is what creates the feeling that you’re just “spinning your wheels.”

How would you show up differently today if you were oriented toward what you really want from life and business? 

How would you run your business differently? 

What projects would you choose for 2021? 

What strategy would you pursue?

My sincere hope is that you spend some time over the next few weeks investigating what you want a year from now, 5 years from now, even 10 or 20 years from now—and then ask yourself these questions to orient the action you take today and the plans you make for the future toward what you desire.

And if you’d like my help, I invite you to join me for The Commitment Blueprint next week.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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I've explored goal-setting and planning with small business owners, creatives, and independent workers for over 12 years now. That means I've observed many different types of goal-setters. Some confidently choose a new goal and get to work. Others rebel against...

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