Last month, I made my fancy excel spreadsheet to track my financial goals for the year. It has colored and calculated columns, and a fancy graph that updates itself when I add data. I had it all figured out. The first of a number of goals is supposed to coast towards completion right on time, just like the spreadsheet says it will. As a matter of fact, this payday will…
– Result in my car needing work
– Require me to invest money into the writing for two different projects
– And just for fun, let’s throw in the unplanned boat project which always seems to cost a thousand dollars.
My goals are already off track, so I do what any average person does. I shake my fist at the sky and curse with a lot of phrases that start with “if only…”
And these “if onlies” can really pile up.
– If only I didn’t have to invest in my goals up front.
– If only my seven-year-old car that’s spent a lot of time in storage these last five years was invincible, and the same goes for the much older boat.
While we’re at it, lets add in my underway schedule, the stock market, and the one day it rains in San Diego. Want to add some of your own? Go ahead, it’s fun. Let’s add the leaky roof, the internet connection, promotion opportunities, or plumbing. How about family drama?
The next step after all this is usually to beat ourselves up for not meeting the goals, for not saving enough, or studying enough, or working extra hours. Please stop doing this, or at least try. I still find myself in this situation more often than I’d like to admit, but that’s life, and we can’t do much about it. The worst thing we can do is get discouraged and give up, but it happens.
The real “if onlies”, the honest ones, look like this:
– If only life would stand perfectly still while I’m deployed and be waiting for me exactly as I left it when I return.
– If only life would wait until I’m ready for it.
Here’s the reality, which I’ve probably already gotten you to: Real life won’t stop. Bills still need to be paid, relationships need to be maintained, and yes, there will be births and deaths, but there will never be enough time. The world will move forward, business models that once made people successful will fail, and all things money will be in a constant state of flux.
Here’s another honest one, probably a bit too much so:
– If only I had made a plan flexible enough to allow for life to happen and kept my eye on things so I wouldn’t be surprised now, when my goals aren’t being met.
And yes, that one stings even as I write it, but we need that sometimes. My financial plan looked at my current pay and expenses, not the realities of owning and maintaining stuff.
When we sit in empty rooms behind closed doors, we often make plans, which is good. The problem with the plan is, in it’s first draft, it usually consists of every day being sunny, that starting a project will go as planned without finding ten things wrong once we’ve cut into the wall. We’ll promote on time, the first time, every time because, well, we hope to, and our ideas will be accepted the first time with no resistance or revisions.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Like it or not, and admit it or not, that’s what most of our plans look like if we inspect them. This happens because, behind that closed door, our plans make us feel good about having plans in general, so we save the spreadsheet or calendar, give it a motivating name, and we think happy thoughts. What we often forget to do is open the door and take the new plan for a walk. Instead, we let it sit, nicely preserved, behind that closed door.
How do we make plans with enough flexibility to survive contact with reality? Until time travel is invented, there’s no real guarantee, but there is an option.
Let’s call that option a mentor, because mentors are awesome, especially the ones who’ve done what you want to and probably made the exact same mistakes you’re about to. They too wish they could go back in time to make a few changes, but they can’t. What they can do is sit with you and share their own experiences so you hopefully create that flexibility you need to meet your goals, balance real life, and set some realistic expectations.
So, here’s a new one:
– If only I could share this great plan with the right mentor so I can make it better.
Give it some thought.
Do you have a plan now that might be a bit unrealistic or that’s already fallen behind due to real life?
What was your most recent “If only…?”
Have you heard someone’s plan and laughed inside because you had a similar one and learned the hard way? If so, will you share those experiences?
Have a great week out there.
My good thing: I’m very close to announcing the new charity as well as the publication dates for the first Day Job collection and the calendar.
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