“People will kill you over time, and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases, like ‘be realistic.'” Dylan Moran
I love thinking about how people set goals. I love how some people walk into a room and know exactly what they want, and how some of their supporters knew that would happen, and others are shocked and delighted… And I love how some people, and some groups of people, walk in so tentatively, not quite sure what they might want, not sure how to say what they want, not sure if it’s “realistic.” A while ago, someone posted this cartoon on Facebook – I can’t remember who…
How some people think of planning, and have experienced planning…
I remember saying to them, “Wow, I really need to redraw that picture” and they said, “I hope you do.” And then I started using this cartoon in presentations, and what’s awful is how many people look up at it and they don’t laugh, they nod, knowingly. People with and without disabilities.
So, recently, Shelley Nessman and I were being interviewed about person centred planning and our approach to it. And one of the things we talk about is how, often, the actual planning needs to happen after some healing – real person centred planning needs to be more than just the opposite of institutional or organizational planning (“Here are the three options for your future with us and we’ve documented a 40% reduction in your behaviours”) – but we also need to acknowledge that by the time we meet any adults they’ve most often been through years of planning within the school system. Our family has “been there / done that” too. It’s hard to get over, even for someone (me) who spends a great deal of my time helping other people plan. It’s a crazy system, typified by the statement, “We only have 22 minutes to do this, so we’ve taken the liberty of filling this out.” And my partner, who has a business and tech background, will say, “Why did these numbers change from last year when we weren’t looking?” It’s pretty much a ritual, both their roles and ours. As far as we can see, it’s completely about the paperwork. Which mostly people don’t read. So people have had (and continue to engage in) bad planning. They have, as Jack Canfield wonderful summarized in a day I spent with him, “Put their ladders up against the wrong roof, got to the peak and now they’re afraid to try again.”
But people also have GREAT planning, and we’ve also seen that, countless times. So I think we need to visualise the alternative, which is what this drawing is about:
Visualising Optimal Planning
We’ve been to so many of these planning sessions. With the mom who said, at the end, “it’s like we’re leaning into the future but the surprise is that in the leaning we are already there.” With the woman who brought out her pic-symbols and pushed me out of the way to show us what she wanted to plan for, and had the best ideas ever. With our friend who brought out her last PATH, the first planning session she’d done, at 50, and went through all over the things that she’d accomplished over 18 months and was ready for *more*. And even with my own friends, in my own PATH, honest and brave enough to disagree with some of my plans for myself and make better suggestions. Some of which I took to heart and some of which I vetoed. Because in the end, it’s my life. It’s the life of the person doing the planning. If they don’t have veto, it’s not their plan.
But, particularly over the last year or so with David Wetherow and with our friend Cheryl Fryfield, we’ve learned that the key is in the invitations we are brave enough to offer. To people who have raised us and to near-strangers. So many show up for us if we invite them.
If you want to learn more about facilitating PATH and other kinds of person centred planning (which can be used for people, projects and teams), or graphic recording and facilitation skills, please consider joining us for an exciting week of experiential learning in September.