Having a plan – or not having one – is front and center in the news this week. People are looking for a plan as they fear what’s next in the Israel-Hamas war. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are curious how new House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, can get members of Congress back to work. Consumers want to know if the Federal Reserve has a plan to end its pause on interest rate hikes. We long to know there is a plan coming so that we can sense a direction, a goal or an outcome on the horizon.
Today’s headline – what’s the plan? – is something you may ask yourself, even as you look to leaders in your community and around the world to take action that reduces the anxiety of uncertainty. I can’t wait to share an insight from a client about the power he gained by thinking ahead, discovering that once he identified what he wanted he was then ready and able to clearly communicate that goal with his team. If you’re ready to take action in your life, today’s tool utilizes Dr. Martin Seligman’s approach to human agency – which allows you to consider the past and present to create the future. Let’s dive in.
The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #20
What’s the plan?
Here are some of the headlines I’ve been watching this week that give me pause:
In these three stories alone, around the world and domestically, we are looking for a plan. We elect leaders we believe will represent our values and set a direction with priorities we feel are important – for our safety, for our future for our health.
When you know there is a plan in place, you have something to connect with or challenge. You have the opportunity to consider what the future looks like. Without a plan, you may experience feelings of helplessness and uncertainty resulting in anxiety or depression.
While it is impossible to absolutely ‘know’ the outcome in any of these situations, establishing a plan provides an outline with some guardrails. From that place, we can make choices accordingly. Planning offers a way forward, without a plan we are stuck.
The power of thinking ahead
Michael has been working on improving his executive communication skills in our coaching sessions. He finds himself wandering and going off tangent when he gets the opportunity to share his thoughts on how to launch key initiatives. So he’s been working on leaning into his strengths, owning that he’s a subject matter expert and crafting his message.
And this week he had a breakthrough.
“I feel like I’m getting more clear on what I want. And once I know what I want I have clarity!” Michael shared. “That means my message is right to the point. What used to take me half an hour to explain was done in minutes. And they got it!”
Instead of jumping into a new initiative and hoping to hit the target with his team using ideas that were all over the map, he told me he spent time planning what he wanted as the outcome of this specific project. Then he went in reverse and asked himself: What is the point of this project? Who really wants it most? Where can we get the resources to move ahead? Now what do we do?
He believes that the time he used to think ahead and realize what he truly wanted resulted in him being concise and on message. His team is moving forward, and he anticipates this way of owning what he wants and planning beforehand will be a game-changer.
Human agency in action
If you’re ready to take action in your life and at work, I can’t think of a better tool to share with you than the theory of human agency, as offered by Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center who’s often described as the father of positive psychology.
Here’s how he breaks it down so that you can do it on your own:
When you believe that you can change the world for the better, progress occurs. When you do not, there is stagnation.
There is power in taking action and believing there is something you can do to effect change, now and in the future, which leads to pursuing goals with more imagination.
If I consider my day today, I recognize a number of places where having a plan freed me to do good work:
From reflecting on the words of a client, to setting aside time for a grandchild, to making kefir, things were smooth.
But even my best laid plans didn’t all come through:
From forgetting to call a dear friend, to realizing my gas tank is nearly empty, to procrastinating on a business plan, I’ll put them on tomorrow’s list.
I leave you with the last stanza of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
I can, I can in the future and I can pursue goals.