Why do we hate planning for our future?

Oct 16, 2014

Admit it…planning ranks right up there with going to the dentist. We see planning as stressful, time consuming and we are pessimistic because we aren’t sure how to do it. “Why bother, when my plan will be wrong anyways?” is a common concern.

Most people readily admit that they have spent more time planning their last two week vacation than they have invested in planning for the next thirty years of their life. Have you ever considered that maybe planning can actually be as fun and easy as planning your vacation?

People seem to be under the misconception that any plans they put down on paper are written in stone and that if their life changes then they are stuck with the consequences of their previous decisions. However, if your life changes, it’s only logical that your plan should too. After all, it’s not like your vacation planning is all smooth sailing. The flight you want may be booked, the hotel you want may be under renovations or your mother-in-law may not be able to watch the kids. You need to make adjustments and have contingency plans for the bumps in the road. This is called reality-based planning.

As Carl Richards, author of The Behavior Gap, writes, “…reality-based planning acknowledges that such assumptions are mere guesses. We make the best guesses we can. Then we can move on to the more productive business of investigating our current motives and circumstances, so that we can act from a place of understanding – not hope, not fear; but clarity.”

What people fail to understand, because they are too busy assuming they can’t do it, are the true benefits that planning provides:

  • It brings balance to our life by creating anticipation for future and you begin to consider compromises that will guarantee these goals are achieved.
  • It allows you to consider all the possibilities and their consequences, thereby providing you with the ability to determine what you truly want out of life.
  • It helps you to have open discussions with your spouse, so that you are on the same page and able to make important decisions together.
  • It also provides you with the benefit of hindsight; allowing you to understand the long-term implications of your decisions before you actually commit to them.

There is no such thing as the perfect plan because life is constantly in flux. You simply need to learn to adapt to the changes. Once you realize that planning is essential and open to refinement, it’s time to get the ball rolling and get engaged.

It also helps to have the proper tools that allow for exploration and discovery of the possibilities before you sit down and start to make commitments. You need to find ways to get answers to those ‘I wonder if I could?’ questions in order to reduce the confusion and complexity to bring clarity to your future.

Unfortunately, most people start the planning process by looking at the recurring costs associated with meeting their basic lifestyle needs. How dull. Start by getting excited about your future – what makes you happy?

With your beliefs on happiness as a basis, take time to identify what you want to do in your future – the must do’s, would like to do’s and wildest dreams – and you will find it easier to focus on the things that truly matter in your life.

  • Who do you enjoy spending time with? Family, friends, children or grandchildren etc…
  • What do you enjoy doing? Traveling, reading, sports, exercising etc…
  • What gives your life meaning? Volunteering, learning etc…

As you draft your plan, you need to stop focusing on whether you have the financial resources to achieve it. In The Behavior Gap Richards’ states, “We have to decide what will make us happy and then make financial decisions that support these goals. Financial decisions are almost always life decisions. Before you decide on your financial goals, you need to choose your life goals.”

Once you begin to organize your thoughts and goals, you start to make solid decisions which lead you to your ideal plan. You need to let go of your preconceived notions regarding planning and make the best guesses possible for your life. In dealing with intricate problems, such as retirement planning, people are unable to balance all of the options until they see them on display. It’s like a light goes on and everything begins to click into place.

There is always the worry that perhaps we don’t have enough financial resources to reach our goals.  So what? All the more reason to plan. It is well known that when it comes to money there is a limit to how much happiness money brings. The goal is to explore and discover what really makes us happy, what really gives meaning to your life. Proper planning allows you to focus your available resources, time, energy and money on those things that will give you the greatest ‘return on life.’

At Designing My OK, we have developed easy to use, engaging and fun tools that allow you to explore the possibilities of the future. To stretch the limits, then step back and reorganize.  Those who complete the process are rewarded with clarity, balance, confidence and anticipation for their future.

So, before you start to plan ask yourself – what makes you happy? Don’t be surprised, when you get to the root of happiness and meaning, you find it has more to do with doing memorable things with people you love.  Already planning for the future is starting sound more fun.