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My Life Planning Model

My Life Planning Model

    (photo by Drunken Monkey Photography). I thought I’d explain a little more in detail about how I plan my life, and what tools I use to achieve my goals. I like to separate my thoughts on planning and organizing into two levels: upstack and downstack. I often talk about Getting Things Done (GTD) as a good downstack framework. But this post will be about my upstack efforts, and for that, I often turn to Covey.

    Covey’s Habits

    Since 1995, I’ve been practicing variants of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. One of the very best visual icons he gives in his work is the premise of living one’s life by the compass instead of the wristwatch. The premise is that one be guided by their “true north principles,” and not the whims of the hours passing in a given day.

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    To short-hand what Covey talks about in the 7 habits, here’s the rundown.

    1. Be Proactive. Realize you’re the programmer, and that YOU write the program.
    2. Begin with the end in mind. Now, go write the program.
    3. Put first things first. You’ve written the program. Organize and execute around what you’ve written.
    4. Think Win-Win. Seek third solutions that leave everyone happy.
    5. Seek first to unerstand, then to be understood. Listen more than you talk.
    6. Synergize. Use the team around you. Build on strengths. Accentuate the positive.
    7. Sharpen the Saw. It’s not over when you accomplish something. Stay sharp. Grow.

    Principle-centered living means having a set of “operating instructions” that you can execute in any setting. If you’re on an island, you can do most of the stuff that’s in your instructions, just the same as if you’re in a busy office building in Singapore.

    The thoughts and ideas I laid out in the other post with “streams” and the like are anchored to these compass settings I’ve built into my general self. So, I have a strong sense of family in my compass. I’ve got a sense of what I want to do with communities. I’ve got a sense of what matters to me with my work life. I know how I should better my finances. And I understand what should be the state of my physical health and well-being.

    Every goal I’ve set for myself since 1995 relates to the sense of those compass settings. Sometimes, I adjust what matters to that compass, but I always align myself to a set of operating instructions instead of to set micro goals. If you re-read my post on planning and time horizons, you’ll see that I haven’t laid out specific targets. Instead, you’ll read that I have aspirations in those various areas.

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    Signal to Noise

    Most of our lives are filled with mental clutter. We have music, tv, movies, games, comics, books, groups, clubs, friends, hobbies, sports, email, cell phones, business trips, and other vocations to fill our skulls and our waking hours. We’ve got complex social relationships involving online “friends” we’ve never shaken hands with or hugged, and we’ve got plenty of other ways to chew into our mental calories and thought processes.

    By building a compass setting of the things that matter to me, and trying hard to align my actions, time and effort to that compass, I work hard to move things forward. Those of you who’ve gotten to know me know that I operate on a lot of things at the same time, and that I’m good at working tirelessly at a lot of projects simultaneously. I use my efforts in setting my guiding points to ensure that I’m doing the right things and spending the appropriate time and energy on the things I believe matter most to me.

    Course Corrections

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    Covey points out that when an airplane travels from Boston to Los Angeles, it is off-course 90% of the journey. The majority of the time that the plane is in the air, then, is spent making course corrections. He says life is like this as well. So, I take time often to consider the goals I’ve set for myself within the boundaries of my internal compass, and I consider whether I’m on course. These corrections are how I get closer to the vision in my head of what I consider success.

    Aim High

    The last part of my planning and goal-setting efforts involves a quote I read somewhere (and I forget where). Essentially, set your goals high, even if you only hit halfway, because if you set them low, you might not even reach THAT goal. This has served me well in life. When I hadn’t run an inch, I decided I’d train to run a marathon. I was successful. When I started setting smaller goals, I fell off the fitness wagon entirely.

    Everything of value I’ve ever done in my life came from setting a goal so high that I *might* achieve it, but that I very likely wouldn’t. This has led to lots of successes that I doubted myself capable of achieving, but that then fueled further successes. My career today is largely a part of my efforts using the system I sketched out above.

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    Wrapping Up

    If you want the short-hand to everything I just wrote, here it is:

    Figure out what matters the most to you. Focus on it. And then do THAT as often as possible.

    Yep. That’s it. I work hardest to accomplish things that I believe relate to what matters most to me. This seems like a “duh” thing to say, but ask yourself how closely your day-to-day efforts match this model.

    Let me know if I can help you with anything.

    Chris Brogan is community developer for Video on the Net, a conference about the impact of broadband internet on the future of TV, Broadcasting, and Film. This article was cross-posted to Chris’s blog, [chrisbrogan.com].

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2018

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Are you one of those people who are always suffering setbacks? Does little ever seem to go right for you? Do you sometimes feel that the universe is out to get you? Do you wonder:

    Why do I have bad luck?

    Let me let you into a secret:

    Your luck is no worse—and no better—than anyone else’s. It just feels that way. Better still, there are two simple things you can do which will reverse your feelings of being unlucky.

    1. Stop believing that what happens in your life is down to the vagaries of luck, destiny, supernatural forces, malevolent other people, or anything else outside your self.

    Psychologists call this “external locus of control.” It’s a kind of fatalism, where people believe that they can do little or nothing personally to change their lives.

    Because of this, they either merely hope for the best, focus on trying to change their luck by various kinds of superstition, or submit passively to whatever comes—while complaining that it doesn’t match their hopes.

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    Most successful people take the opposite view. They have “internal locus of control.” They believe that what happens in their life is nearly all down to them; and that even when chance events occur, what is important is not the event itself, but how you respond to it.

    This makes them pro-active, engaged, ready to try new things, and keen to find the means to change whatever in their lives they don’t like.

    They aren’t fatalistic and they don’t blame bad luck for what isn’t right in their world. They look for a way to make things better.

    Are they luckier than the others? Of course not.

    Luck is random—that’s what chance means—so they are just as likely to suffer setbacks as anyone else.

    What’s different is their response. When things go wrong, they quickly look for ways to put them right. They don’t whine, pity themselves, or complain about “bad luck.” They try to learn from what happened to avoid or correct it next time and get on with living their life as best they can.

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    No one is habitually luckier or unluckier than anyone else. It may seem so, over the short term (Random events often come in groups, just as random numbers often lie close together for several instances—which is why gamblers tend to see patterns where none exist).

    When you take a longer perspective, random chance is just . . . random. Yet those who feel that they are less lucky, typically pay far more attention to short-term instances of bad luck, convincing themselves of the correctness of their belief.

    Your locus of control isn’t genetic. You learned it somehow. If it isn’t working for you, change it.

    2. Remember that whatever you pay attention to grows in your mind.

    If you focus on what’s going wrong in your life—especially if you see it as “bad luck” you can do nothing about—it will seem blacker and more malevolent.

    In a short time, you’ll become so convinced that everything is against you that you’ll notice more and more instances where this appears to be true. As a result, you will almost certainly stop trying, convinced that nothing you can do will improve your prospects.

    Fatalism feeds on itself until people become passive “victims” of life’s blows. The “losers” in life are those who are convinced they will fail before they start anything; sure that their “bad luck” will ruin any prospects of success.

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    They rarely notice that the true reasons for their failure are ignorance, laziness, lack of skill, lack of forethought, or just plain foolishness—all of which they could do something to correct, if only they would stop blaming other people or “bad luck” for their personal deficiencies.

    Your attention is under your control. Send it where you want it to go. Starve the negative thoughts until they die.

    To improve your fortune, first decide that what happens is nearly always down to you; then try focusing on what works and what turns out well, not the bad stuff.

    Your “fate” really does depend on the choices that you make. When random events happen, as they always will, do you choose to try to turn them to your advantage or just complain about them?

    Thomas Jefferson is said to have used these words:

    “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

    “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

    Your luck, in the end, is pretty much what you choose it to be.

    Featured photo credit: LoboStudio Hamburg via unsplash.com

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