How do you accomplish a goal? How do you enjoy yourself along the way? How do you deal with the inevitable surprises and opportunities? By following a good plan. Whether it’s running a marathon or achieving optimal financial well-being, few of us will ever get from here to there without following a plan.
As some of you read this, I will be running the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania marathon with one of my clients. I met her last fall at the Baltimore, Maryland marathon, where she signed up for my 4 hour and 30 minute pace group. At the 20-mile mark, I told everyone to go ahead and run their hearts out for the final 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles. My client, who was not my client at the time, was strong enough to pick up the pace and finish in 4 hours, 25 minutes, and 28 seconds. Not bad for her first marathon!
During the race I told the people in my pace group about LifeTrek Coaching along with how to find us on the World Wide Web. I even had the URL imprinted on the back of my shirt. Soon after the race I received a thank you note, from my future client, which included the following remarks:
“I’ve never been a runner. I’ve never run a race before. I’m not really sure where the whole marathon goal started for me, but it became a goal that was, for the first time in my life, independent of my weight and everything else in my life. It was the goal. It didn’t matter if I didn’t have a perfect day or week…I still did my training runs. Unique concept • training. You don’t have to be perfect when you train. Wow!”
In my response, I asked about her post-marathon plans and she wrote:
“My main idea is to keep at it. This in and of itself would be a huge success for me. I don’t want to get goofy about stuff, because when I get too out of balance with anything…well, the back lash can be debilitating to say the least. I want to try and have fun, feel good, and challenge myself. I want to keep training because it helps me to balance my personal, family and work life. And that’s a good thing.”
That was the last I heard from her until two months later, when the idea to “keep at it” was proving to be increasingly elusive. For one thing, we were headed into the winter months with frequent inclement weather. For another thing, there was no goal and no plan to accomplish a goal. So running • as well as that all-important life balance • was starting to suffer. Would I be willing coach her to another marathon finish, perhaps even stronger this time than the last? And could we also tackle a number of other areas of interest, especially the family-owned business?
The answer was an immediate, “Yes!” There’s nothing I like better than to find ways to connect with my clients in person, outside of our regular coaching telephone calls, and connecting with them to run a marathon merges many of my personal and professional interests.
It wasn’t long before we picked Sunday, May 4, 2003 to run the Pittsburgh marathon. Our goal? To finish the race and have fun. Our stretch goal? To finish the race in 4 hours or less and have fun. Our plan to reach that goal? A proven training program that I have developed, tested, tweaked, and used with great results in many marathons over the past five years.
As with any marathon training program, my program specifies what and how to run five or six days a week, for the 18 weeks prior to a marathon. My plan also includes instructions for cross training, weight lifting, and stretching, as well as rest and recovery. From day to day, after you plug in your desired marathon finish time, you just follow the plan and reap the rewards.
When it comes to achieving optimal financial well-being, the approach is really no different. First, you set your financial goals as to receipts, disbursements, savings, and giving. Then you back off those goals, based upon the time you have to work with, in order to create and follow a plan that will get you where you want to go. If you don’t have the inspiration and information to create this plan all on your own, then work with a financial advisor or coach who can assist you to get and stay on track.
With the right plan, it should be no more complicated than following a marathon training program. From week to week and day to day, you simply review the plan and do what it says. By keeping a record of your experiences, including your actions as well as your feelings, you can optimize your performance and minimize your mistakes. You can even recover from unexpected problems and capitalize on unforeseen opportunities.
Recently my wife was invited to join an Education Administration Delegation to South Africa through the People To People Ambassador Programs founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although it is quite an honor to be invited, the honor comes with quite a price tag. So we immediately began discussing whether or not she could afford to capitalize on this opportunity at this time.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a financial plan in place that would enable us to quickly and easily answer this important question. How would this major disbursement impact our savings and giving for the year? Inquiring minds want to know. In the absence of a financial plan, we’re left to make decisions on the basis of estimates and emotion. Those bases can sometimes produce decisions that work out just fine; but more often than not these bases get us to spend money we don’t have at the expense of other important financial goals.
Not having and following a financial plan is like training for a marathon without having and following a schedule. In the absence of a plan, we wake up in the morning and go for a run, or not, based on our feelings and available time. Sometimes we probably do OK on these bases. But more often than not, we end up running too far, too little, too hard, or too easy in order to move forward our fitness and training level as quickly and as steadily as possible.
Estimates and emotion can also occasion significant personal and relational problems. Money, and communication about money, are often cited as top contributors to marital discord and divorce. In the absence of a mutually agreed upon plan, each person makes his or her own assumption as to what is or is not affordable. When this happens, it’s easy for two people to come to two totally different conclusions about the best course of action, with plenty of hard feelings along the way.
When a plan is developed and agreed upon together, well in advance of the surprises that inevitably come our way, everyone is better able to reach agreement and move forward together. That’s why I like to preprogram a treadmill for my harder workouts. It’s easier to put the plan into the treadmill than to put the treadmill into the plan. Half way through, when I’m feeling tired, is no time to ask whether I want to kick it up a notch.
Fortunately, my wife and I have the time to get a plan in place before we need to make a decision on this trip. So we’re not among those headed for discord and divorce! But we could have already made a decision, more quickly and easily, if we already had a plan on paper. Plans give us the information we need to be successful, and to respond without delay, even if they do have to be revisited and modified from time to time.
Over the next four weeks, I will use Provisions to consider the fundamentals of planned receipts, disbursements, savings, and giving. Once these fundamentals are in place, optimal financial well-being or wealth is no more complicated than working the plan.
Coaching Inquiries: What are your financial goals? Are you following a plan? Who could you talk with to develop or improve your plan?
LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Thank you for sharing your poems in the Provision that came out on Easter. They were timely for current reality and for such a special day. Easter and especially the preceding Holy Week have become monumentally profound and soulfully moving for me in the past few years. And like no other time during the year, where I am and what I am doing during that time is especially important. This year I spent early Easter morning at a sunrise service on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I can’t explain the joy I felt nor how deeply moved I was to be so fortunate to celebrate in that way. It made me wonder how many people truly share those feelings. Your Awakening poem captured a lot of that for me.
I want to acknowledge you for your expression of feelings through your poetry. Such wonder when we let it flow and thank you for sharing a deeper part of yourself with me and the world. I so look forward to receiving your email newsletters. You are enlightening the world with your love and coaching. Thank you.
One reverse observation: From reading von Mises, an Austrian economist who died in 1973, I have concluded that we receive dollars for providing goods and services to people by free trade. Be of more service, get more dollars. If you really make good things happen, you will have lots of people’s dollars. So wealth is the result of doing good for others. It’s the reverse of our society’s usual thinking.
I was surprised and disappointed to detect a tone of smugness in your recent quip, “What more could a person want?” I’m sure you want at least a little peace, justice, hope for those without hope, faithfulness, and a little more honoring of God in addition to your own personal good fortune. (Ed. Note. Indeed I do. Thanks for the reminder to think globally.)
Your Provision on “Hardly Working” is one of my favorites to date! What you said is one of my important messages to self and clients. Good job!
I am wondering if you can advise or recommend any planning/personal management system? There are so many options available and methodologies. I am torn between all the electronic tools and their functionality as opposed to the traditional types of planners available from organizations who provide training in their use such as Franklin Covey, Day Timer etc. (Ed. Note: I use Outlook integrated with my Palm Pilot. I tried Franklin Planner for Microsoft Outlook, but it took too long to synchronize. There’s no going back, for me, to the days of paper and pen.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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