The Collaborative Marriage: Mapping A Plan

Planning ten years out may sound absurd — that’s actually its beauty.

alicia johnson
Jan 18, 2017 · 3 min read

*I love a good plan.

As a brand strategist, having a plan is how I’ve led change for iconic brands like Jaguar and BBC America, and it’s how my husband, Hal, and I have led change in our lives. A rolling 10-year plan is how we have built a business. How we have done the work, both personal and commissioned, that got us where we’ve wanted to go.

A good plan provides intention. And intention inevitably creates action. It’s almost as though you can’t resist it.

So why a personal 10-year plan and not a one-year plan or a five-year plan?

Easy: the beauty of a 10 year container is its absurdity.

I mean, how can you predict what might happen in a decade?

You can’t. And so the detailed planning of such an ambitious and unpredictable length of time sets in motion, for us, an act of faith. It creates a framework upon which to hang our biggest, stupidest dreams. A long shot bullseye, a billboard-sized “what if” to hold all the potential and longing we can sense right now, and all the happiness and success we can imagine for ourselves over our next life cycle.

Because life has its own rhythms, a lot changes in a decade. Most notably: you. I boil it down like this: Every seven or so years your cells regenerate. Every seven years we find ourselves inhabiting a new space. Consider yourself at seven or 14, then at 21 and 28, at 35 and so on… seven years is a lifetime in and of itself. A full season, with a ton of beginnings and endings tucked inside, like matryoshka dolls.

And as we age our rhythms begin to make themselves more apparent. We get a sense of what goes where. We plant our seeds, we nurture them, we cull and harvest, and, if we’re lucky, we learn when to let the soil rest, when to rotate our crops… we may live as many as 12 or 13 seasons in our life.

What to do with all that time? May as well dream a little. That’s how I see a 10-year plan. It’s a holder of our dreams, a way to stay connected to what matters to me and to my partner (and sometimes they’re different), it’s a beacon for the times when a little course correction is in order.

This summer I made a little course correction in taking a break from writing about leading change in business, so I could write about creating a personal 10-year plan, a how-to based on what I’ve learned from leading change in my own life. In the next Control Freak post I’ll give the plan its bones: where to start, where it ends, and the stuff you’ll do in between.

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