planning a route on a map

Habits of successful ex-drinkers 4: Having a plan

Once you’ve established a goal or a purpose in life, it’s important to make a plan. Having a vision of where you want to get to isn’t enough. You really need to plan your route so that you can there more easily and with less detours.

For example, let’s imagine you were going out for a drive one day and you decided you’d like to visit a destination called White Sand Beach. (Imagine this was in the days before sat navs because you don’t get a sat nav for your life). If you didn’t use a map, plan the route you were going to take and where you were going to stop for fuel or breaks, you could drive all day and never reach the beach. You could go round in circles for a long time! You could maybe stop and ask a few people along the way and they might help you along but it could take longer and it would be touch and go as to how reliable the directions were.

Much quicker, more efficient and less stressful to have looked at a map and to have planned a route. Even to have plotted your main milestones along the way so that can follow the signs from one town to the next one on your route. The more research and planning you do in advance, the easier and more successful your journey is going to be.

Of course, having decided on your destination and having planned your route you then have more flexibility and can decide to change your mind along the way. You’ll be more familiar with the landscape and what’s around you because you’ve paid attention to where you’re going. This means you can turn off and explore other places along the way, secure in the knowledge that you have the time and the means to get back on track if you want to.

Just like you make a note of milestones along the way on your journey and decide where/when you’re going to stop off, you can set yourself milestones along the way toward your goal in life. You can even set smaller, achievable goals along the way and create a plan for how you’re going to achieve each one.

Doing things in small and bitesize chunks is much more effective than trying to accomplish something too big and difficult to achieve. Making small plans that take you step by step towards your main goal is the best way to go.

Having got your goal or destination clear and having planned a route to get there with small, achievable steps, markers and milestones along the way is a surefire way to take your energy and focus away from anything booze-related. It gives you something else to concentrate on and helps you find fulfilment, a sense of achievement and self-confidence. All of these things reduce your desire to reach for alcohol. Any gaps or issues in your life become filled with new purpose and energy.

To help you generate a robust plan, a good question to ask yourself is: What needs to happen for me to …. (name of goal)? And you can keep repeating this question for every answer. Then, when you're happy you have a list of realistic and achievable actions, you ask yourself: What needs to happen first?

Here's an example:
Q. What needs to happen for me to be fit and healthy and teaching others how to do the same?
A. I need to change my lifestyle and eating habits.
Q. What needs to happen for me to change my lifestyle and eating habits?
A. I need to find an exercise habit that suits me and that I enjoy and I need to cut out the sugar.
Q. What needs to happen for me to find an exercise habit that suits me and that I enjoy and for me to cut out the sugar?
A. I need to look in the local papers and online to see what’s on and what I like the sound of. I need to go to a couple of classes/sessions and try them out. I need to find something that I can do online from home – I need to spend some time researching online exercise plans and choose one that’s right for me that I can build into my daily routines. I need to spend some time at the weekends planning my healthy meals for the week and only buying the ingredients I need.
Q. What needs to happen first?
A. I need to research online for a class I can join and research the local papers for fitness activities I might like to join.

Notice that the final answer is the first step in an action plan. You can record your action plan anyway you want and make this the first step. You can then organise the previous answers in order of priority to create an achievable and realistic action plan.

Then you can go back to the original question and explore a different aspect of it.

For example:
Q. What needs to happen for me to be fit and healthy and teaching others to do the same?
A. I need to figure out what kind of teaching I’m going to do and how I’m going to fit it in to my life.
And, so on.

By using these two simple questions:

1. And what needs to happen for… ?
2. And what needs to happen first?

You can create an action plan for yourself that helps move you towards the goals you have set yourself.

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