Laminated life goals, the universe, and everything else

Make plans if you must, says Ilana Einfeld, but be prepared to pivot if the world shifts around you

I had a boyfriend in my early 20s who dreamt up his life goals, had them laminated and stuck them to his shower screen. The ex-boyfriend maintained that a morning reminder of where he wanted to be in 5/10/15 years would guarantee that his plans came to fruition, even if potentially difficult to focus on when hot water and steam got involved.

The thought of laminated life goals vaguely horrified me then and I must confess, nearly thirty years later, I haven’t changed my mind.

“Fail to plan, plan to fail,” I hear you cry.

Or maybe, “Just how on earth did you get anywhere without a vision board?”

And from the less charitable, “You’re clearly an idiot and no wonder he dumped you.”

Just to be clear, it’s not that I am an anti-planning radical.

Planning is most certainly a useful, helpful exercise. I would go so far as to say that in our business planning is key. We need timing plans. We need production plans. We need north star plans for our brands to make sure we are always driving them forward. As agency people, we need plans to help us navigate the tricky and constantly evolving way our audience consume media. We are always making plans – sometimes we go as far as to make scenario plans which translates to mean not just a Plan A, but a Plan A, B & C. Net, that’s a lot of plans.

In the old days we even had an entire department full of people we called planners, that’s how important planning is to us (although re-branding these very important people as strategists seems to make much more sense).

The challenge is, there’s so much we simply cannot plan for

The world is constantly throwing out surprises that absolutely nobody could have foreseen. Everything about the way we live seems to change on a daily basis and that’s before we even think about taking a stroll around the metaverse.

I wonder what the average life span of anyone’s vision board actually is.

We know that nobody in the world had properly planned for a global pandemic and the lockdowns which saw our way of life turned upside down. All of a sudden, it became blatantly apparent that absolutely no one had a workable plan. Yet somehow, in amongst all the darkness and sadness there were heart-warming stories of people who pivoted. Restaurants who quickly flipped to delivery and survived. Mothers and fathers who did their best at Year 7 mathematics and learnt new parenting skills in the process. Exercise classes that went online and kept everyone moving. The ones who saw what was happening and found a way to do things differently, and in some cases, a way to do things better.

So what’s the lesson?

Maybe it’s this. Having a plan is great. Having a plan is very important. However, because the universe seems to have its own plan, we need to know how to look at the altered spaces we find ourselves in and make the best of them. We need to embrace the things that we can learn, when we didn’t know we would ever have to learn them.

I never planned on getting married. I certainly did not plan for the ensuing divorce and life as a single working mother. That’s not something anyone really vision boards for. Looking back, however, I focus on the gifts. All the things I had to become because there really was absolutely no plan at all and I was 10,000 miles away from home and the people I had always relied on. The way my circumstances made me smarter, more resilient, more capable. The joy in making things work, when I really didn’t know if I could.

Or put another way, if we live our lives according to a plan, laminated and stuck to our shower screens, we may not know what to do when the world shifts around us.

So, make your vision board if you must. Just keep one eye on the constantly amazing and often challenging stuff this wonderful world throws at you.

Featured image: NASA / Unsplash

Ilana Einfeld

Ilana is a Global Creative Director at MullenLowe Group UK. She’s been working in advertising for a really long time. Like a before WIFI sort of long time. She’s passionate about lots of things, buy her a vodka martini and you’ll hear all about them.

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