Always Plan for the ER

The deeply instructive trials of this week included a nine-hour Emergency Room ordeal. Here’s what I learned. (You might be able to relate):

  • The key to reaching your goal (ANY damn goal) is learning to rely on your executive functioning skills (namely, your ability to plan ahead).

  • The habit of second-guessing your executive functioning skills is code for I am afraid. I am anxious. I am stressed. Getting curious about the origins of those feelings is going to be a lot more productive than endlessly reevaluating your decisions (not to mention the concomitant negative self talk).

Let’s take a look.

Widening Upward Spiral

This upward spiral pic reminded me of my dad's math & art.


The key to reaching a goal is learning to trust your inner exec because…

  1. Second-guessing it wastes the mental energy you already spent when you made the plan.

  2. When you know you can trust your plan, you can relax about getting things done. You just know you’ll get them done because you scheduled them, and so you don’t have to keep re-thinking and chasing your tail in stress-mode. (Be honest: are you any fun to be around when you’re in stress-mode?)

The way you learn to trust your inner exec is to fail at weekly scheduling until you figure out how to create a plan that takes reality into account, such that you can actually follow the plan.


The way you figure out how to create a plan that takes reality into account such that you can actually follow it is to take a stab at it, any which way that seems like a good idea, and follow it like religion, embracing the consequences of a crappy plan the way you revere the lessons of a sage teacher.


Those last two points may seem circular, but they’re not: they’re a widening spiral on an upward trajectory. Do, fail, learn, adjust, do... That’s the magic.


Reexamining the Plan: Code for I’m Scared


The habit of second-guessing your executive functioning skills is code for I am afraid. I am anxious. I am stressed. Getting curious about the origins of those feelings is going to be a lot more productive than endlessly reevaluating your decisions.


It’s like freaking out about whether or not you locked the door or turned off the iron or remembered your passport. You start exuding panic, spinning in exhausting circles, accomplishing zero: should I turn back and double check or keep going? If I turn back, I’ll miss my plane, but if I don’t, something catastrophic might happen and...and...and...we’re all gonna die!


Instead, why not train yourself to trust that the executive in your head is smart and has foresight?


Of course it directed you to lock the door; it knew you were leaving an empty house. Of course it directed you to pack your passport; it knew you couldn’t get on your plane without it (and you REALLY want to take that trip). Of course it directed you to unplug the iron; it knew that leaving it plugged in would be a fire hazard, (and you really, TRULY don’t want to burn down your home or hurt anyone).


Here’s how I’m going to eliminate this wasteful habit. Maybe it’ll work for you too. When the second-guessing starts, let's try taking a breath and revisiting the following three ideas:

  1. This second-guessing episode is a manifestation of stress, worry, and/or fear. It is coming from some other department in my head, not my upper management execs.

  2. I KNOW when I genuinely forgot. I get that quiet certainty, that expanding sense of alarm, and if I actually listen, there’s no doubt. This is different from the back and forth internal dither that leaves a sister dumping out her purse in the Uber like a frightened tornado, sifting through gas pump receipts looking for her ID. This is the certainty that calmly tells you to find a solution right now.

  3. If I DID forget, I also know I’m absolutely capable of both redressing AND surviving the consequences.

So if you planned to complete seventeen critical items this weekend, and you suddenly find yourself in the ER where you can do none of them, the message is this: PLAN for the (usually figurative) ER next time!


How to Plan for the ER


Mondays…

  • review the list you made at the end of December for the eight things you’re going to do each quarter that move you in BIG ways toward your goal.

  • Commit to two of them and break them down into their tiniest details. That’s your big-picture list for the week. (Rise above the nausea these provoke).

  • Brainstorm all the domestic & logistical things you have to do that are separate from your “impossible goal.”

  • Highlight the most time sensitive things. That’s your small picture list.

Next...

  • Identify the THREE most important things you can do each day this week to generate forward momentum and three that you must do to keep your household running. ONLY three each per day, because you are planning for the ER!

  • Have at-the-ready a little list of plug-in tasks you can select if you don’t have to go to the ER and find yourself with several unscheduled hours. (Experiment with making some of these pleasures!).

  • At every turn & temptation, remind yourself that the long-term pride you’ll experience when you succeed in making $100K is way better than the short-term pleasure you’ll get from sleeping in or blowing off/swapping out a scheduled task.


1...2...3...GO!



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