Plan, Breathe, Take the Next Step

Whether you are someone who is best at starting or finishing a project there is always a need to master the day to day basics in order to get the simple things done. 

The following are 3 steps to help you find your balance between planning and execution more often:

1. The Planning Stage

Planning is an important tool. However, like with any tool, you need to begin to understand how you can use it to your advantage. A plan is just someone else’s good idea and almost useless if you don’t have a specific purpose for it. 

Plans need to be flexible, in reality things rarely work out exactly how we expect them too, especially when we try something new for the first time. Do you remember as a kid drawing along with your favorite art teacher for the first time and wondering why your painting looked nothing like his or hers? I’m sure you initially planned to paint the same thing but plans don’t come wrapped up with the required expertise.

Plans need to be pointed in a certain direction, the more specific the better. Plans work best for me when I have 2 to 3 top goals I set out to achieve each day. These can range anywhere from specific technical tasks, like writing a blog post, to more introspective tasks such as gaining clarity on a certain fear that is an obstacle in the way of my progress and forward momentum.

The key to any solid plan is the implementation stage. A plan is useless without action to breathe life into it. A lack of action leads to a lack of feedback which leads to a stagnant and quickly outdated plan.

2. Breathe

Breathing is one of life’s constants and also one of life’s most underrated skills. It sounds funny but paying attention to my breathing patterns has helped me tremendously when I enter into flight and fight mode. 

In these flight or fight moments I get swept away by my own thinking and my awareness of my shallow breathing allows me to spot what is happening faster. 

When I am in my head I have noticed a tendency to forget to breathe, it sounds strange but when I have a head full of fears to seemingly deal with, breathing feels optional.

The fact of the matter is that breathing is never optional, in much the samw way that gravity is never optional. My fears and imagined futures don’t have the capacity to actually harm me in any way but a lack of oxygen will quite quickly but my life at risk.

A study in the journal Neuroscience called How we Breathe Could Also Affect How We Think and Feel, even suggests that our cognitive functions might be boosted by inhaling when we’re in dangerous situations — a time when we might need to react to things more quickly or effectively, and our breathing naturally quickens.

So how do I gain perspective in the moments where I have been blindsided by a thought storm and can barely even breathe? At some point I will notice that air is becoming hard to come by, in this moment my focus goes back to the very thing that is keeping me alive and this becomes my priority and focus. When I can manage to do this one simple thing, quite often my illusionary thinking dissipates.

3. Just Take the Next Step 

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
-John Lennon

It doesn’t have to be this way. The best way I know to not let the precious gift of life pass you by is to take the next step that makes sense to you. The longest journey you will embark on has the seemingly shortest distance of going from your head to your heart but it is also the only journey aligned closely with life.

So often I try and figure everything out before the fact. This feels comfortable, it feels known and it feels safe but it has the very real problem of being solely heady with little to no heart. New results come from new actions and new actions come from trying something new and living with the unknown. The unknown always lies outside the mental model that is in your head.

Taking the next step doesn’t guarantee success. Frequently it comes wrapped with failure and pain. The upside is that it rarely comes with a sense of emptiness and regret. Regrets are the things that will eat you up inside and prevent you from living a life that is from the inside out.

Over to You

How are your planning skills? What is the smallest action step that you are willing to make today?