Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do You Struggle to Keep Between the Lines?

Living life is more like driving a boat than driving a car. When you are driving a car you must stay inside the lines. When you are driving a boat you pick something in the distance and steer towards it.

I was spending time with a friend I hadn't seen in years and I said this.  I've been thinking about it since.  On so many levels, I realize that the harder I try to keep my life "between the lines" of the path I have planned out the harder life is.  When I pick an end goal and keep open to opportunities that arise, things seem to fall into place.  Does that make me a slacker or procrastinator?  Maybe not.  I recently attended a lecture where the speaker said the days of "simple" strategic planning are gone and leaders must become adept at scenario planning.  When you plan for multiple scenarios, you are able to jump on opportunities that you might otherwise have missed if you were tied to one plan.

From a business perspective, where strategic plans are developed for multiple years at a time what will this look like?  Will it make leaders look less powerful if they admit they cannot control external factors?  Will they look noncommittal?  How will groups that struggle to come to consensus on one plan be able to agree to multiple courses of action and criteria for each one to be elevated?  Will board meetings start to look like the pick-a-plot books we read as children?  Will smaller organizations become more profitable because they are inherently more adaptable?

On an individual basis, this method is very appealing to me.  After all, there is a third option of doggie paddling in the middle of a lake that is the equivalent of being aimless in life.  Think about the boat, you are picking an end goal.  It is off in the distance and sometimes you won't be able to go in a straight line if something comes in your path.  You make a course adjustment to avoid the barrier and get back on track as soon as possible.  It might be the equivalent of accepting a developmental assignment at work because someone believed you had potential or networking with people in an area in which you have a common interest.  You don't know what you will learn, but you know that the experience will broaden your scope of understanding at the very least.

What does your life plan look like?  Do you look back on more opportunities missed than you would like?  Do you have a concrete idea of what your future will look like or a general idea that could be the combination of unknown permutations of qualities?