A Life Plan for Tough Times: Cherish, Flourish, Nourish
When I shared our approach to setting goals, and creating a life plan with the Churchill community at the very beginning of 2020, it all seemed like the beginning of a fairly straight forward year. Nothing to see here, people … just a regular old year.
With an unusually high dose of the completely irregular thrown in for good measure.
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Yes, the immediate plans for 2020 that I had so carefully typed up and stuck to our fridge and whiteboards at our desks, well, every time I read over them, it felt like they were for a different time and place.
The plans to celebrate Randall’s 50th year, our 20th anniversary, the Ultra Trail we had planned to run – none of those plans came to pass.
So, by August, as I stood at the fridge seeing that list again, I reached up and pulled it down.
I scrunched up the papers in my hands, flipped the bin pedal and threw our plans away.
Perhaps you have encountered the same experience this year?
We are hearing it from many people.
The best laid plans, the stuff you have sweated over for your company’s response to COVID or your family’s tap dance through how to deal with the changes COVID has kept bringing, they have had to be trashed or revisited more than once.
When we just focus on the immediate plans, it can be disappointing, disheartening even.
And completely distracting from our true goals.
So, that is why once I had put those short term plans, the 2020 stuff, in the bin, I made a time to spend with Randall, looking over our Dreams, Goals and Plans book.
That is the place that we had written our dreams, goals and plans for the next 10 years, taking us up to 2029.
And whilst 2020 had definitely stomped all over our plans for this year, we still have our dreams and goals well beyond this time.
If anything, the nature of 2020 has sharpened our dreams on the important stuff in life.
So in September, Randall and I went through every one of those dreams and goals and asked ourselves three simple questions again.
- What do we cherish?
- Do our dreams and goals go that step further and help us and our family flourish?
- Does working towards our dreams and goals nourish us?
When it comes to understanding what we cherish, we have a special filter we run over our life – and it was made crystal clear to us when a few years ago, Randall’s father, John, was nearing the end of his days.
John had Lewy Body Dementia and he had lost much of what gave him pleasure in life – but not the who that gave him pleasure. As the doctors prepared the family that there would be no return to the John of old, Randall and I took our children and headed to Umina Beach to spend those final days with Randall’s Dad and his mother, Pam.
For three days, we gathered by his bedside, with the family sharing stories of their life together; sharing with laughter, love and tears. And John, who was largely without words, would squeeze their hands with that same spirit of love and laughter in reply.
It was some of the best and hardest of days for any family to share made easier only in this respect: the family was together, sending John off from this world with the same love that his parents received him into it.
John’s passing taught us something really important: at the end of our days, all that we have worked for, all that we have sacrificed for, all that we have chased and desired, the only things left if we are really lucky are the people we care about most.
It taught us to look at our dreams and goals through the End of our Days filter.
Is this something that will mean the most at the end of our days … is realising this dream or goal going to be something we look back on and believe added to the relationship we have with the people we love most?
Who do we cherish? And for us, every time, it is about creating dreams and setting goals that enable us to connect with our children, our families and our closest of friends.
With that foundation in mind, we worked onto our next focus.
As we read over our dreams and goals, Randall and I decided that if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are prepared to fight to grow healthier. It is no secret that we have been on a long journey to good health – mentally and physically.
We ran our eyes over our dreams and goals and asked: would these dreams and goals help our family and ourselves grow and thrive?
Will they help us to fulfil our two ultimate dreams: to build a strong family unit and to do good work that helps others?
We don’t want to sit in a corner and rock.
We want to flourish, coming through even the hardest of times.
Looking at our goals, we realised some weren’t going to make us flourish in the ways we cared about.
For example, we had a goal to buy some shares – not a crazy number, just a little nest egg that we could divide amongst the children when we have gone. Was it a bad goal? No, not at all but we have scratched that off the list for the moment. Let’s face it, we don’t really understand the share market and if we haven’t shown any interest really by now, it probably isn’t the best idea to start a share portfolio in volatile economic times. It doesn’t fill us with any spark of excitement.
Instead, we upped the ante on teaching our children about good financial management by sharing our budgeting approach openly with them. Our eldest child, Declan, finishes school in 7 short weeks and we have realised helping him plan for his finances now is a dream that will help him flourish long term.
Whilst we are focused on paying out our mortgage sooner, we also have a new goal to take our family to visit somewhere in Australia that creates great memories and connects us all to the beauty of Indigenous Australia more. I’m currently researching a holiday to the Bungle Bungles or Arnhem Land.
And with the year spent at home, we have realised we would rather work on paying down our mortgage more than we wanted anything fancy or shiny. Owning our home is a place for our family to flourish – and those vegetables that I have planted in the year of COVID and banana bread baking have both been things that have brought me immense happiness.
One thing we have learned over the years is that rarely do the good things in life come easily. But the act of working hard for something is so much more rewarding than just being given something.
You know how it is when something really takes it out of you in work, but when you look at it, you know all that hard work was absolutely worth it? Just like that.
We put a new goal on our list: to complete the Oxfam 100 in 2021, a trail event where we will both walk 100 kilometres continuously in a small team.
I’m expecting it will hurt. And it is already taking commitment and effort in the training. I am focused on how it will feel to achieve this goal – the sense of accomplishment and team as we cross the finish line together. And the sore feet and legs. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little daunted by the prospect of the pain.
But chasing down dreams and goals like these, they nourish us.
As we reach the pointy end of 2020, we have a choice.
We can write off the year and wish for a new one. And some days, I’m sure that has been pretty tempting.
Or we can remember that we can control what we can control.
We can own our dreams and our goals, and make plans to see them through to reality.
We can keep our eyes on the future we would like to achieve.
As Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Keep dreaming, keep planning.