Is Plan B distracting you from living a life filled with Plan A?

From Plan B to Plan A and beyond

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Walt Disney

Ever since I was 16 and saw my first Almodovar film — Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, my dream has been to live in Madrid, Spain, be fluent in Spanish, be a full-time creative, artist and photographer and live the vida loca.

Yet, I am in my mid-forties and this dream has been the best, well-worn late night pub story I could tell without putting myself out there and taking actions to make it reality. I have in parts tried to make it real but I always gave up in the early stages. I studied Spanish at University but at the moment I am intermediate level at best. I went to Spain once in my 20s but I couldn’t work there at the time without a visa, so I left after a few weeks. I didn’t even try. I have never lived in Spain until now.

Because I have become the master of living, planning and over-achieving on Plan B.

For me, it has been better to keep it a dream that I could imagine with perfect outcomes rather than go through the rough and tumble of making it real. Recently, I have had the opportunity to once more explore this dream and I have been reminded by everyone I know from acquaintances to my childhood best friends that now is the time. Live the dream or let it go. No more pub stories.

The backstory of teenage dreams to now… I have always made other plans. I followed the path away from creativity in my 20s when I got into digital strategy & product management. It just seemed easier and was definitely more lucrative. For a variety of necessary reasons, I choose the faster & easier path. I stopped making art and taking photos altogether in my 30s. I moved to London to grow my digital career which has been beyond amazing.

I don’t regret any of those experiences, decisions, paths or opportunities. Because with the life I have had, I am the mother of an amazing son. I had a marriage that was totally awesome and amazing until it wasn’t and now I have an ex-husband who is one of my closest friends and we live a modern family life raising our son across two continents. I have travelled the world in a way I love because of a successful Plan B — great work, projects, life, career and opportunities. And I have had the most amazing career opportunities, worked at cutting edge of digital technologies, led creative teams and met incredible people.

I have loved every single one of these experiences and I am beyond happy — most of the time.

Yet, none of those plans were my Plan A. None of them got me to Spain. I wasn’t an exhibiting photographic artist in Europe. Plan B kept me close enough to think I was on the path but in reality I was slowly I moving further away from my creative soul and España.

This year I had the opportunity to start again. 30 years later. And there have been some key questions. Continue with a version of Plan B or… for the first time go hard on Plan A. I am not a teenager anymore and the world has fundamentally changed since then. So I had some new choices to make and lucky for me, these were choices were 100% within my control.

I have been given another chance at Plan A — an updated 21st century Plan A with Spain at it’s heart.

My first question — what is my new Plan A in 2018? Do I want the teenage dream or a hybrid? Would I keep telling the story as I got older, about never living in Spain, although it is my dream. You know better to have not tried and not failed right? To help really understand these choices I went on a walkabout. As part of the Walkabout, I have been travelling, trying to find my purpose again and each time coming back to Madrid, Spain and feeling the city, understanding it’s rhythm, learning if my dream is really what I want in my future.

Walkabouts are awesome and you can read more in my other article but a strange & peculiar thing has happened. As I was wandering around Spain, it seems by accident (or design) I started to live in Spain. I have started making art again also without thinking about it. I have spent at least 1/3 of my time in the last six months in Spain and primarily in Madrid. While I don’t have a fixed address, I now do ‘normal’ life things in Madrid. Buy groceries, go to doctor, gym, yoga, walk five flights of stairs because there are almost no lifts in Madrid (that was never in my dreams), watch and love the crazy late night television. I might not be ready to support Atletico (and never Real Madrid) yet but I am close.

So, it really wasn’t that hard at all. I am officially living in Spain.

So, Plan A stands, updated to 2018 — live in Spain, follow the work which means work across Europe as a consultant and be creative, mix with creatives, share your creative work, exhibit with a focus on image based technology, storytelling with photography at it’s heart. And… finally break that hump of speaking Spanish fluently.

So what’s the point.

As I am mid-way through the process, I have learnt many things about what it means to ‘live your dreams’ and the distractions that prevent us from getting there.

First of all — dreams and reality are not the same thing. Reality in this context is way better. Well for me and this dream. I love Spain more now than ever before, even if it is the most contradictory and confusing place in the world. It has lived up to my dreams, expectations and beyond.

So the question is more, could have I got here earlier? While timing doesn’t matter, I am here now and that is all that counts but… if I had my time again I would ask younger self the following…

What would happen if I stopped focusing on Plan B altogether — how would I have actually planed my life, my days, weeks, months and years, to live Plan A?

Let me explain…

Firstly, let’s be clear, I can now focus on Plan A is because of Plan B. All the skills, people, connections and learnings I have had actually fit nicely into a new Plan A. I always in my head thought of them as separate things but actually in a world of visual storytelling where google knows more about photography and narrative than you or I, I am perfectly placed to blend both skills and… for the first time my timing is right.

Now it is about a refreshed focus based on two key insights.

During one of my walkabout trips in May 2018, I was speaking with the awesome coach — Samantha Thomas— in Thailand on my Phuket Cleanse retreat and we mapped out the very simple idea, almost so simple it’s stupid I have never done it before — split your current ideas, ambitions, tasks, goals and objectives and put them in two buckets. Which ones deliver on Plan A and which ones are Plan B. I had never done this before, everything just blended. So now — with two clear tables — be relentless with your time — only focus on Plan A.

It was a bleedingly obvious but great first step. Spain had become such a big idea that I was too overwhelmed to even start it and Plan A was buried inside many to do lists.

Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. Paulo Coelho

Now I have a simplified set of ideas and actions to help me get to Plan A.

But as I said, I couldn’t have actually got there without Plan B skills. I used all my digital strategy techniques to do the plan. That includes a strategy, outcomes, a roadmap and OKRs — yes I kid you not, I have Plan A strategy with OKRs. And everything is broken down in an agile way of working with incremental steps. Little baby tiny steps to get me where I want to be. Basically I am prototyping my new life and tweaking it as I go along as I learn new things — I am beginning to love stairs.

Fast forward a few months later (August 2018) and it seems to be working. My Plan A of making art — in progress, exhibiting and taking photos again every day, living in Madrid as often as I can — getting closer, speaking Spanish — needs work as I need my friends to stop speaking for me. HA!

And in the Movida Madridleña, Almodovar kind of way, my life is filled with crazy, wonderful and lovely Spaniards & experiences which I can happily say means I am living la vida loca.

Now, I have the curious challenge. Plan B is still there and it keeps reminding and offers delightful opportunities to go hard and come back to the fold. The quick fix is in my life daily and I am frequently getting little hooks that drag me back to fulltime Plan B and a permanent life in London. Great job opportunities, networking opportunities, family & friends. Super easy to say yes and sometimes I want to. I love Plan B but even though I love it… ultimately it is not Plan A.

Distractions are easy and everywhere.

And precisely at the moment when everything seems to be going well and your dream is almost within your grasp, that is when you must be more alert than ever. Because when your dream is almost within your grasp, you will be assailed by terrible guilt. Paulo Coehlo

So, in July I got another piece of advice. I was sitting in my fave Madrid plaza with my wonderful friend hazel swayne, telling her how blessed I was that if this dream (now plan) doesn’t work, I am ok now with it, I can say that I tried and I will go back to Plan B.

There I was leaning on Plan B again. The safety net. I have the luxury and opportunity to have a successful career I love and skills & experience in digital media built up over 25 years. We both said how lucky we were… because we have opportunities many who are following their Plan A don’t have. Our skills allow us to flip and switch between different modes of working and creating.

Then I said casually and without intention, imagine what life would be like if I had no Plan B. What if I didn’t have these digital strategy skills, how would I manage my time, networking, creativity and self-promotion to really ensure Plan A happened.

It was like a lightbulb moment.

We both stared at each other and said — what if Plan B is holding you back. What if just having it there was backup is enough for you really not to dive into what you want.

So the question became what if I took Plan B off the table. I would really have to double down on Plan A. I would really have to refine and focus on everything that matters to make Plan A work.

It meant prioritising, removing more obstacles and opportunities, a different kind of networking with different kind of people. And it meant dedicating as much time as possible to my creative work.

Now, I am also realistic, I know plans don’t happen overnight. And my new Plan A includes parts of my previous life, the best parts of Plan B.

So, this was the point, question and idea to share…

Whatever your Plan A and Plan B are…

What if your Plan B, which is the thing you know you can achieve blindfolded is holding you back… What if you just concentrated on what you really wanted, you know Plan A…

If you are dreaming of Plan A — whatever it may be, and as long as it is a choice you can make in life then really think, how would you approach life and that dream if there was no option for a Plan B?

The strategic view…

  • What is your Plan A? What is your Plan B? Create two lists
  • What things are you doing in life that are exclusively Plan A, Plan B or a space inbetween?
  • Do you really want your dream to be a reality?
  • What joy would you feel if Plan A was just an everyday thing?
  • What barriers have you put up for yourself to make it seem like Plan A is not achievable

Decision making framework / OKRs (objectives & key results)

  • Imagine what life looks like in twelve months time if everything happened to make it work?
  • OKRs people can work for personal life too — map out what good enough looks like
  • What are your values, principles and non negotiable activities / what is the framework to make decisions about what to do, what not to do, what is acceptable and what directs you away from your path
  • What does the success look like now, during and after or as it evolves and… it never ends so what journey do you want to take?

The plan

  • How long realistically do you think it will take to get there?
  • Prototype it — what is the first thing you can try — anything to make it a reality
  • What is are the small steps, incremental to get there?
  • Would you think / act / approach life differently if you only had a Plan A
  • How long do you need to have Plan B in back pocket before it is no longer needed. Give it a deadline. Or remove it from the table immediately if you want to jump in fast.
  • How much of a risk you willing to take to live you dream and goals?

None of is nothing radical, this is literally how I have approached my career for the last 25 years, now I am taking all this back into my personal life.

Because Plan A and Plan B both take focus and therefore with finite time, one will lead you away from the other. So. if you lucky like me to have a great Plan B — it could be the distraction you don’t need in life. The safety net you need jump away from.

Now… and I remind myself of this every day.

Take the risk, take the plunge and work on Plan A like there is no Plan B. You never know what might happen.

For me… I am loving learning new things about Spain everyday… so it is a fabulous in progress Plan B, it is rocky & joyous especially walking five flights of stairs everyday. It does wonders for your health, especially since almost all food is fried — green vegetable anyone?

Welcome to the Movida Madridleña — 2018 style.