✨ The Compound Effect ✨ A Letter From A US Army Officer and Clinical Psychologist PsyD
Why Use A Planner
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
I regard myself as a seasoned planner and organizer. I attribute the majority of my success thus far to my dedication to planning, organizing, and continuously cultivating my vision. These skills have indubitably played an invaluable role in my developmental journey. As a 32-yr-old Black Female US Army Officer and clinical psychologist who moved (back) to the USA as part of a family of refugees, I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far and so excited for my future. I am excited to share how the long-time use of planners has continued to play an instrumental role in helping to create the life I desire for myself.
I am an American-born Sierra Leonean. My family relocated to the United States as refugees in 2001 as a result of the 1997 civil war. When we relocated to Georgia, my family had to rebuild from the ground up –story for another day. There were no signs to indicate that I would one day go on to become a doctoral-level clinical psychologist and US Army Officer.
I have heard it said that “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” Many years ago, I was first introduced to the concept of “visioneering” through reading the book ‘The Secret.’ This text was my introduction to the importance of visualizing (and relentlessly believing in) the future I desired for myself without reservation. Essentially, it theorizes that if you wholly believe in the picture you create for yourself, the pieces will fall together to make your vision a reality. I like to think that if I had never been exposed to that literature, I may have fallen victim to the [situational, cultural, fiscal] beliefs others around me intentionally/unintentionally imposed on me. True visioneering is engaging the dynamic process of allowing your beautiful mind (and heart) to operate without boundaries. Yes, ditch the boundaries imposed by your past experiences, what people told you, the unhelpful things you tell/told yourself, and just ENVISION!
Many adults can relate to the feeling ‘stuck’ at one point in their lives or another. One of my favorite modes of therapy to utilize when working with clients that are mentally stuck is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Feeling stuck can look like a lot of things including frustration, hopelessness, helplessness, unrelenting sadness, or persistent restlessness/unease. In the briefest overview ever- one part of ACT posits that negative feelings or cycles of negative experiences stem from living incongruently with your values. Each person identifies the values that are important to them. Values determine your direction in life and serve as both your decision-making tool. Values are your compass to reference when you feel stuck or lost. Those who are intentional in living in congruence with their values are believed to live a life of contentment. ACT clarifies that values are different from goals. Where goals are a terminal entity, values are lifelong. You derive your goals from your values.
This is where planners/organizational skills come into play. Time is a fluid concept –sometimes it seems to drag by, whereas other times it flies by at an alarming rate. Increasing your intentionality in how you plan to use your time will help mitigate against feeling “out of control.” Additionally, setting aside time to plan and organize forces you to identify what is important. Theoretically, the things of urgency/importance are determined by your values. Voila!
I have grown staunch in the belief that the manner you choose to spend your time is your greatest asset. What some call “reverse engineering,” I simply call backward planning. To do that you first create the end picture and you break that picture down into the steps it would take to accomplish it- all the way until you end up where you are at present. You work backward to identify the pieces that would need to come together to build upon themselves to make that picture a reality. For some, this is how their values are identified. Being a woman of faith, I understand that I do not have control of every single part of the process; however, planning allows me to feel that I am maximizing my role in the process.
Once you have your picture in mind, creating that picture will be worth whatever sacrifice you will have to endure to achieve it. You will then have to become intentional about how you spend your time. There are a plethora of daily opportunities for distractions and what I refer to as ‘Time Sucks.’ Time sucks are those things that eat up your time but leave nothing to show for the time spent. Some are absolutely attractive and/or enjoyable (in the moment) distractions, that leave you feeling empty after it passes. If one is not careful, you can unintentionally devote a sizeable amount of precious time to things that serve no real purpose in moving you in the direction of your dreams. As a clinician, I am an advocate of regular “self-check-ins.” In one form of check-in you i.) assess how you perceive yourself to be doing at present; ii.) Verify that you are still on course in congruence with your values/goals.
Ultimately, there are many routes to success. I believe there is some merit to the theory that defines success as the accumulation of multiple small victories. Committing to the use of a planner/organizer will facilitate that mission. Channel your energy. The use of a planner reminds you to accomplish the smaller tasks that will guide you to larger goals. Your planner is a tool for keeping accountable to yourself in being more intentional with your time and creating the life you desire for yourself. Just like you depend on eating and drinking water, commit to regularly checking in with yourself and remaining accountable to your future.
Dr. Coker - US Army Officer and Clinical Psychologist PsyD
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