Hope Is Not a Strategy
One of the most important things Sarah and I have learned in the last year or two is the need for solid life foundations. I have heard that this new millennia has presented more options than we’ve ever had before. Now the world has opened up to all of us and the need for personal conviction has never been so pressing. Not in the “Let’s freak out!” kind of way, but in the “What are we going to do with all this future?” kind of way. In my 20’s I thought I had it all figured out and knew exactly where I was going. While most of my core beliefs are the same, others have changed. Some, I would say, have been refined. The same beautiful, universal truths and wisdom I still embrace. How could I not? But maturity has brought with itself a different perspective. Adversity has caused my wife and I to ask questions; to really think hard about our patterns, habits and the overall direction of our lives. How are we doing? How is our emotional, spiritual, and family health doing? The need to know what’s important and non-negotiable is paramount.
Some counsellors call it a Philosophy of Life. For the sake of simplicity let’s call it Core Values.
Think of the phrase for a second…
The origin of the word core is unknown, but it is believed to come from an old french word meaning, “heart”. And the word value has to do with worth and/or a person’s judgement of what is important in life.
So to say that your core values are what you hold dear to your heart, could be a simple way of understanding it. We must start here.
Would you take a minute to think about what you value most? For me it is my faith, family and my close friends.
What seems like the entire world will try to compete for your limited attention. You cannot give it all to everything and everyone. You must choose. Success to me looks like choices that are aligned with my values. This is what I meant when I said that some of my values have changed. Things that I thought were important before are not so much anymore. Like a purifying process, the precious gold has surfaced to the top and the rest can wait, forever if it must. That’s what I am working on.
How To Get There
Knowing what’s important is the starting point. Once that’s settled (although it seems to be a continual process for me) that’s when the real work begins.
Unfortunately, simply hoping for a better life or future (and I do love a hope-filled approach to life) is not enough to bring it about. Sure, some people seem to be destined for success, as if good fortune has kissed them on the forehead and you can wait all you want for that to happen to you, but you might wait forever.
It has taken me a long time to realize that intentionality, commitment and plain ‘ol courage will be required to believe and move forward. This is coming from someone who struggles and fails more often than not, but is committed to take the necessary steps to live a life of purpose.
But how do we bring our grand ideas to the here and now? I believe this is where many of us struggle. We may not lack conviction, but we lack practical skills to make things happen. If there’s one thing I have learned from John Maxwell it’s that you are in charge of how you live your life.
For example, maybe one of my dreams is to have a long happy life with my wife, have a house at the beach somewhere and get old together (I am smiling as I write this). If that’s the case then my health is going to play a huge part in making that happen. If I want to be healthy at 70 then I need to start taking care of my body in my 30’s.
This is where Strategic planning comes in.
Strategic planning is mostly associated with military doctrine, but you can use it for any area of your life. This kind of planning will help you prepare for the future and the more prepared you are, the less you’ll be caught off guard. How many times have I expected the summer season to be amazing only to run out of time, making it to the beach a measly three times?
Strategic planning will give you the best shot at living according to your values. A great life doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by living with conviction, ideals and by making practical choices that will reflect those ideals.
This is how some of the most productive leaders in the world organize their lives. Of course, it varies from person to person and you can adapt any of it to your liking. I find creativity is a very important element for structuring your life - somebody else’s system might not be right for you and that’s ok!
- Yearly Planning
- Quarterly Planning (roughly every three months)
- Monthly Planning
- Weekly Planning
Given the amount of work, commitments and opportunities Sarah and I want to do and be a part of, we first decided to implement weekly reviews. That simple 15 minute practice on Sunday night has multiplied our ability not just to get things done, but it also has allowed us to organize and plan what’s most important to us (our core values). For example, we don’t want to just work together all the time, we want to have an intentional weekly date night (we’ve now had three in a row!). If you haven’t read the Weekly Reviews blog post I encourage you to read it here.
I would say weekly reviews are a great place to start. We are now starting to move into quarterly scheduling (roughly 3 months at a time) and I am blown away by the possibilities of this kind of planning. Thinking ahead 3 months at a time has revolutionized our business and in turn, our life.
Be encouraged by the fact that we are just diving into this and learning along the way. Little by little is often how change comes.
Never stop wondering. Never stop exploring.