Making tentative plans into firm plans

planning useI’m the kind of person who likes to set goals or destinations to work towards, not fly by the seat of my pants. Setting such goals/destinations allows me to plan my route appropriately, and travel the “route” smoothly and effectively. Hopefully!

I remember as a young teen I had an English teacher who taught us his preferred approach to writing a term paper. He said that after reading all about a topic, you must first choose the main point you want to make and the desired conclusion, then brainstorm ideas on the topic to get the juices flowing, create an appropriate outline, incorporate the ideas into the relevant outline, brainstorm more based on the outline, and then start writing. I remember doing this and it worked out well.

I have approached various projects in my life (big, medium, and small) in the manner of writing a term paper. Frankly, doing so reduces my anxiety levels. I don’t get as overwhelmed by dwelling on the enormity of the project, I set interim goals and reward myself each time I achieve them.

When it gets difficult is when you don’t quite know what your goal or final destination should be. One day it’s one thing, another day it’s another. Of course you will have to weigh the pros and cons of each, but sometimes factors along the way change these. This is especially the case for me as a woman with bipolar disorder, whose moods and energy levels change from time to time. Obviously one need not have bipolar disorder to experience similar difficulties. Money, relationships, health, and other types of issues can also exacerbate determining a final goal. Sometimes despite unexpected difficulties, I keep the decided on final goal alive, or at least something in its realm. Not doing so can lead to hopelessness or resignation. Situations in life do improve again.

multiple ideasSo what if you narrow down your goal choices to just two or three things? Choices that are somewhat related. For example, a move to another place is a definite, but you are torn between California or Illinois. What are the pros and cons of each location? In my case, access to good mental health care is crucial, so that is a required point. Another might be access to easy transportation and an environment in which I feel at ease and enjoy. Obviously, appealing work opportunities rank high in the “must have” scale, but what are they? Am I already qualified for such work? Or must I make preparations for them?

What really complicates setting final goals is if you are negotiating it with another person, like a spouse, or even children. The addition of “What things can I compromise on, or, can the spouse or children compromise on?” has to be added.

I’ll admit that I’m currently in the midst of such a quandary. I’ve done some thinking about a particular end goal with another person. There has been negotiation, but plenty of disagreement along the way. Or, at times there was agreement on some aspects, but then suddenly there’s a change of mind. Unfortunately, that causes frustration, leading to a halt in the planning progress. I’ve decided to pick a day on the calendar when we will proceed with this planning. Not doing so could allow long-term or permanent avoidance. It may even be helpful to find an intermediary, like a neutral friend, or even a therapist.

chessSelecting a “restart” day can sometimes be the spark needed to resume planning, and speed it along faster. Deep down, you may have softened on an idea that you were previously hard line on. Time often makes things appear differently. So does pressure, as we all know from the days when deadlines forced paper writing “all-nighters”. “All-nighters” can yield good things or bad things. I’ve found they yield good things if a lot of project outline and brainstorming was already done. For me, it only yielded bad things when nothing had been done.

Firm decisions will eventually be made, even if it is to abandon the goal completely. If that’s the case, it might be OK, but only if factors leading to the original goal creation are eliminated or managed/coped with. If not, the fire will again burn under your ass.

Do you have any suggestions on strategies on how to effectively meet a goal? How have you dealt with reaching a goal when other people are affected, too?


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