“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…
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:
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.
“…an optimistic mind-set finds dozens of possible solutions for every problem that the pessimist regards as incurable.”
― Robert Anton Wilson
It’s a world of endless possibilities for us all, and I’m fascinated by this. I’m fascinated by how a student that I help has gone from diving headfirst with great confidence into work of incredible bravery and breadth to feeling like anything he does will be wrong – by the hesitation in his keyboarding as he writes a sentence, corrects it, over-corrects it (adds a few commas because the feedback he’s gotten on work that came from his heart was that it needed more punctuation). And now he’s going into high school and it’s time to make a “plan” for his life. The first order of business might be healing up. It interests me that one person will want to create and track their goals on a spreadsheet and another will want to make a visual mind-map. Everything from a Descartian view of what’s real and meaningful to something like the moment when the fellow we were helping plan said that in his reality everything in life is cyclical and just goes round and round, and what’s needed is a stable centre, populated by those who care about him, and then everything else would take care of itself. “Can you draw me that?” And his mom said, of the process, that in the act of planning we are already creating the future we aspire to by leaning into it. And then they talked about their spirits, like fluttering birds held lightly in their hands, flying off to do good in the world….
In such moments things turn, like the lines of poems, and the person who is facilitating becomes an enviable learner, accepting a gift of transformation. How to put that on a spreadsheet is the thing and I do think it’s possible and perhaps even necessary, at least for me, to keep tracking these moments.
It’s one of the things I love about the work of Harold Jarche – his moving away from the assumptions about how we will be together and what planning might mean, and what networks and relationships might bring to our aspirations. “Innovation,” says Jarche’s tagline on his blog, “is not so much about having ideas as making connections.”