Life Planning: changing the Script

In considering small safe experiments to assist in my life planning, I am looking at ways to re-shape the SPACE I occupy in my family and community.

It may help you to consult the Johari Window and consider how you might make the trip from top left, to bottom right!

EXPERIMENT: Return to the results you obtained from the road map experiment. Here, you will have recorded the transitions you have made in your life. You may be able to make a LIFE PLAN to shape the right hand, one-third of your road map.

How might that be done? You may have your own way of planning your life, but you might like to experiment with an outline used by other people. You may find Smart Objectives help you develop this section.

You can think about a life plan in terms of:

An overall AIM: where I want to be in, say, five or ten years time.

SOME OBJECTIVES: to decide on the smaller steps, five years from now and one year from now, moving toward that overall aim, e.g. changing job, moving home, broadening a social or professional network.

GOALS: steps, often within a realistic time frame-work (months, not years), to be completed if an objective is to be realised.  Bear in mind that any move to complete an objective, and move on to another, is not likely to be a straight line. For that reason, I use the idea of the ‘scenic route’ to change in this web site.  In the fancy language of life planning, the scenic route is the critical path. I will add more about this in due time.

Here’s a practical example.  If my aim is to be more successful in my job, two objectives might be to improve my curriculum vitae (CV) and see that people of influence know about it. The goal would be to have a finished revision by a given date and create a list of key people to approach. The next step, the tasks, will dictate how you will go about reaching such goals.

TASKS: these are the concrete means by which you will complete the move in the right direction today, tomorrow and the next day, e.g. researching the job market, engaging our partner in the prospect of moving. Consider the cost and benefit of making any change. Very little comes for free.

Ensure this discussion moves towards a manageable action. Give careful thought to the unintended (and often unwanted) consequences of any decision.

I found Transactional Analysis very helpful in my own life planning. It gave me some insight into the way my life story shaped the route I followed in times gone by. It introduced me to the idea of the SCRIPT: a limiting feature well able to stop me looking to other possibilities to the left and right.

An American psychiatrist, Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis (TA) described the SCRIPT as “a life plan made in childhood, reinforced by parents, justified by subsequent events, and culminating in a chosen [way of life]”.  This idea can help us to understand our ‘place’ in the world and ways in which we are content, or not, with our allotted slot.

Consider, further, what message about yourself did you get from your family? Alternatively, is there a favourite character from a book, TV programme or computer game that you can accept as a role model. Are there things they achieved that you value? Do they tell you something about the direction of the life you are taking? In my own example, Richmal Crompton’s William Brown got away with blue murder during his childhood adentures and some people will say I am still doing the same thing today!

Above all else, as with all experiments, does your character offer you any advice on some small step that you might take that is different, now? William Brown still helps me look at the world differently and be reluctant to conform.

FURTHER EXPERIMENT:  can you do something similar with a favourite song or favourite singer? Consider a line from a song that has particular meaning to you. Review the line of the song in light of the same questions I have just listed above.

On a personal note, I am a major Roy Orbison fan and just love to sing his songs around the house.  His songs provide echoes from my past. By contrast, the words of the American singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin,  long gone, made a real difference to me. He was a great story-teller with tales such as  A Better Place To Be, Mr Tanner and Cat’s in the Cradle. With services like Spotify around it is easy to find this kind of information but what do your favourite songs have to say to you?

Each message from my family, teachers and stories helped me to understand my ‘place’ in life – and some of the pleasures and regrets arising from it. In some ways they help me to change them and/or find ways to accept things I cannot change. From the song Mr Tanner I learned not to be too ambitious when some people want me to improve or display my singing voice.

Transactional Analysis (TA) also introduced the notion of The Injunction. This is a ‘command’ we absorbed from a care-taker. These commands tell me what to be. Some injunctions may be encouraging, or appear to be so, e.g. Try Hard, and others definitely less so, e.g. Don’t Grow Up. Can you use the road map to remind yourself of some of the ‘instructions’ you received in your childhood and adolescence?
Such messages may say more about a care-taker’s needs, pains and discomforts. Repeated often enough, and with sufficient force, such injunctions become part of us and we tends to forget the source of the message. Such messages can be very powerful when we are unaware of their origins.We begin to accept the label and, in time, learn to live it without a second thought.
Can you find an Injunction that might be worth challenging today? The goals and objectives described above may help here. Bear in mind that the first step is to make the unknown, known.
Some typical injunctions include:
Don’t Think: encouraging us to behave stupidly or, at least, discouraging us from being too clever.
Don’t be a child: so we become ‘old for our years’.
Don’t grow up: leading us into a Peter Pan existence of irresponsibility.
Don’t succeed: when many of the things we go for do not work out.
Don’t get close where close relationships are not easy to make or sustain.
Don’t belong: where connections to others are weak. We see ourselves as the outsider.
Don’t feel: when it becomes dangerous to feel our emotions, and we shut down.
Don’t exist: a very troubling outcome when we no longer wish to live.
Take some time to reflect on your attitudes to life: how do you view …….
* the importance of being calm or freely expressing your emotions.
* view on right and wrong, including, say, law and order, capital and corporal  punishment, “young/old people today”, parents today , sex, politics and religion.
* who do you see as “bossy”  people; what is effective leadership in your book. Do you get pushed around or do you do the pushing around?
* your opinions on matters of, drinking, smoking and drug taking.
* what are your views on marriage, divorce and separation?
* what sort of things might make you feel guilty or ashamed.
* your line on censorship? What are the limits of decency in publishing and the arts?

* what leads you to feel bored, impatient or lonely.

* how easy is it for you to change your mind about things? Can you change your own, or others’ minds.
* what things might you ‘run away’ from?
* your working life – things you’ve done, planned to do or still want to do.
…. and anything else that tells you about the rules you have allowed into your life.
When you have thought long enough, and/or created some notes about your view of the world, consider how you see yourself.
One, and only one, way you can view this is to ask whether you are:

An “Architect”: an imaginative and strategic thinker with a plan for everything.

A “Logician”: working things out bit by bit.
The “Commander”: a bold, imaginative and strong-willed leader, always finding a way.
A “Debater”: a curious thinker who rises to the intellectual challenge.
A “Mediator”: wanting to work with both sides.
The “Campaigner” : sure of your own view and confident in pressing it forward.
A “Defender”: always ready to defend their loved ones.
The “Executive”:  the able administrator and manager of things or people.
A “Consul”: the go-between seeking to smooth the way but working in the background.
The “Virtuoso”:  bold and practical experimenters, masters of all kinds of tool.
An “Adventurer”:  always ready to explore and experience something new.
The “Entrepreneur”:  smart and energetic – enjoying living on the edge.
An “Entertainer”: spontaneous, energetic and enthusiastic.
……. to name just a few. You do not need to be any of them; unless the label helps you devise another ‘do-able’ thing that will help you make the changes you want to see.
Privately, you may even think of yourself in one light, but hope to be something else altogether. Other people are very likely to see you differently. What experiment can be done to find that out!
This involves the experiment of “asking for things” – from others!
More information can be found on this large topic on the internet and I used information about personality types from a Myers-Briggs variation.
A useful discussion of the link between our world view and injunctions and Drivers – another term I have mentioned before, can be found at at this web site.
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