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Using Both Sides of Your Brain to Plan

Kid Creativity Education Concept, Child Learning Art MathematicsEvery year at the beginning of the year there are hundreds if not thousands of articles written on the importance of beginning the year with a plan, with goals, with direction. I am a huge proponent of living a pro-active life with intentionality and the first half of my life I did create wonderful plans, goals and had a clear sense of direction.

Now as I am entering the 2nd half of life, the way I used to operate does not entice me any longer. I still want to live a pro-active life and I am still intentional about the choices I make; however, what has changed is how I create that intentionality. I would like to share with you what I have discovered as a “holistic” way to create what I desire in life and work.

As I said, the first half of life I created beautiful linear business plans that made complete sense regarding the steps I needed to take to build my (gymnastics) business and support my direction. I followed the structure of a formal business plan, complete with market research, financials, organizational set-up and even an executive summary! If I needed to, I could have taken it to a bank for a small business loan and felt confident that it would get me what I wanted. It was a great exercise to go through each year and provided a structure for a well-organized plan. The business plan worked! My programs more than doubled in the first year, and grew every year for the 20 years I was involved.

Now, I am much more interested in a more flexible, open approach that allows me to build off what is currently showing up in my business. This approach is still pro-active and has direction. It also appeals to my creative side, which is showing up more and more in my 2nd half of life.

About 10 years ago, when I was in coaching school, I created a life manifesto. This manifesto had 8 statements that addressed how I want to show up in the world. I pulled this out 2 years ago to use as a sample in a course I was teaching at University of Wisconsin-Madison and was amazed at how much I had transformed myself to live out my Life Manifesto.

And so, I thought: if this type of intentionality works towards my life, what would it look like to create an Annual Manifesto instead of a business plan?  I created a structure for my annual manifesto that included an annual theme, a perspective statement (what lens I want to view the year through; for example: abundance), a specific focus (health, growth, etc.) and my intentions.

To say it worked would literally be an understatement. The first year I not only manifested everything I wanted, but much more! The interesting thing is that it did not come to me the way I expected. In fact, my theme for the year was giving and it was through giving that I actually manifested all I wanted. Each year I look forward to discovering how my desires will actually manifest — it’s like being on a constant treasure hunt!

I have now taken both methods and combine my right-brain planning (manifestos and mindmaps) with my left-brain planning (linear plan with systems and structures) for a holistic view of the year. Try it! You may find that both sides of your brain will serve you much better together than using just one side.

If you have never created a manifesto, used a mind map or developed a business plan, set up a session or two with me and set some intentionality for the year!

The Value of Structures

Playground for little children in the park near the lake with toys in vivid colors

First image: a baby being placed in a playpen with toys while dad throws in some laundry. What motivated the dad to place the baby in the playpen? Perhaps so he could feel confident that the baby was safe and occupied while he did his chores? The structure of the playpen gave the dad freedom to move about.

Second image: a group of preschoolers playing in an open area by water. They are huddled in a small space and getting frustrated with one another. Mom puts them in a yard and locks the gate. Now the preschoolers are running all around the yard, playing on the swing set and in the sandbox. What allowed them to be more exploratory in the yard? Perhaps it’s because they felt safer in the space being defined by the fence? The boundary was established for them through the structure of the fence. They did not have to worry about staying away from the water.

The idea of structures to define intangibles such as time and space is one that has been around forever! We create buildings, homes, etc. to hold and define space. School kids go to school from 8-3, business people tend to go to work 9-5, we have grocery days, laundry days and the list goes on. These are structures. Structure is a framework that supports efficient use of time and space. The side benefit, besides efficiency, is that structures create a “safety zone” for learning and growth.

In our first image, the baby is learning that at times, he will have space boundaries to keep him safe until he navigates his space more confidently. A preschooler is learning that there are “danger zones” and until he/she is more confident in their ability to be aware of the danger zones, his or her freedom will be limited to the structure of a fenced yard.

As adults, we often move away from structures to support our learning. In fact, often we assume we should just know. However, we are always learning, developing and growing as people in business and life. Having structures will give us the freedom to grow confidently as we learn new skills.

I am trying to improve my heart health this year. I want to learn how to eat healthy and cook more (which is not on my top 10 favorite ways to spend my time!). I know that if I try to do this by “flying by the seat of my pants”, I will set myself up for failure. I need to create a structure for planning meals, grocery shopping, and allowing time to cook. Because I am not particularly interested in food and tend to be a grab eater, this will be a huge shift for me. Instead of making it so confining with a rigid routine (plan meals on Sundays at 6 pm), I have established a structure that is more open-ended: plan meals on the weekend, shop Tuesday morning after my workout and allow 1 hour for cooking every day. I work out early so getting to the store by 7:30 am alleviates the over-whelmingness of shopping in crowds. Depending on my schedule, sometimes I cook in the middle of the day. Flexible, yet it’s still a structure.

While this example is a personal one, whenever you are integrating something new into your life or business, it is good to establish a structure around it. The structure will allow you to grow in confidence, learn new skills and become more efficient at incorporating the new practice with a higher success rate than if you were just going with the flow. Take an inventory of what you want for yourself this year and ask, “What structure can I establish that would support this happening?” And if you need help, reach out! Coaching is a structure that supports all of your Life!