Ever since I was 16 my dream was to live in Madrid, Spain, be fluent in Spanish, be a full-time creative, artist and photographer and live the vida loca.
Yet, I am in my mid-forties and I still haven’t pursued this dream. It had become the story I would tell over beers at the bar to anyone who would listen but I never did a single thing about it.
I went to Spain once in my 20s but I couldn’t work there at the time without a visa, so I left. I didn’t even try.
Since then, I have always made other plans. I followed the path away from creativity in my 20s when I got into digital strategy & product management. It just seemed easier and was definitely more lucrative. I stopped making art and taking photos altogether in my 30s. I got married in Australia and had a wonderful family. I moved to London to grow my amazing digital career.
Yet, none of those plans actually were Plan A. None of them got me to Spain. None of them kept me creative. I don’t regret any of those experiences, decisions, paths or opportunities. I wouldn’t be the mother of an amazing son, with an ex-partner who is my best friend and we live a modern family life. I am able to travel the world in a way I love because of a successful Plan B.
This year I had the opportunity to start again. 30 years later. And there was one key question. Continue with Plan B or… for the first time go hard on Plan A. So I had some choices to make.
The choice was to live Plan A, but i had to take a break from life to really understand if was what I wanted. So for the last six months, I went on a spiritual walkabout.
Travelling the world trying to find my purpose again and each time coming back to Madrid, Spain and feeling the city, understanding it’s rhythm, learning if my dream is really what I want. During one of my trips, I was speaking with the awesome coach — Samantha Thomas— in Thailand on my Phuket Cleanse retreat and we mapped out the very simple idea, almost so simple it’s stupid I have never done it before — split your goals between Plan A and Plan B and be relentless with your time — only focus on Plan A.
That was a great first step. I have been super scared of Plan A. It had become such a big idea that I was too overwhelmed to even start it. What if it doesn’t work, what if I hate it. It is easier to dream than do. I know that script well.
I used all my Plan B skills to map out how to get to Plan A. I did a strategy, plan, roadmaps and OKRs — yes I kid you not, I have Plan A strategy with OKRs. Little baby tiny steps to get me where I want to be.
Fast forward a few months later and it seems to be working. I am making art again, I am visiting and staying in Madrid as much as I can but I am still not settled. Putting down roots is proving a tad hard for my brain to process right now. But the little events are leading me on a path to a life that I truly dreamed of when I was a teenager. It takes time and persistence and lots of little mini goals and triumphs (as well as whole range of failures, tears & fears)
So, in July, I was sitting in my fave Madrid plaza with a friend telling her how blessed I was that if this dream doesn’t work, I am ok now with it, I can say that I tried and I will go back to Plan B.
I have the luxury and opportunity to have a successful career I love and skills & experience in digital media built up over 25 years. I don’t want to go too far away from, the industry in case I need to go back to it.
We both said how lucky we were… because we have opportunities many who are following Plan A don’t have. Our skills allow us to flip and switch between different modes of working and creating.
And then I said casually and without intention, imagine what life would be like if I had no Plan B. What if I didn’t have these digital strategy skills, how would I manage my time, networking, creativity and self-promotion to really ensure Plan A happened.
It was like a lightbulb moment.
We both stared at each other and said — what if Plan B is holding you back. What if just having it there was backup is enough for you really not to dive into what you want.
What if, I took Plan B off the table, in every form, I would have to double down on Plan A. I would really have to refine and focus on everything that matters to make Plan A work.
It meant prioritising, removing obstacles, a different kind of networking with different kind of people. And it meant dedicating as much time as possible to my creative work.
Now, I am also realistic this doesn’t happen overnight. And I still want a part of Plan B in my life. So I have made a slight pivot to bring enough Plan B into my life to support and fund Plan A. But not 50/50–30/70 and so far this seems to be working.
So while my story is still playing out, I just want to leave you with this thought.
If you are struggling with Plan A — really think, how would you approach life and that dream if there was no Plan B?
So, if you torn between Plan A and Plan B here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do you really want your dream to be a reality? Imagine what life looks like.
- What does the end state of success look like and… how long realistically do you think it will take to get there
- Would you think / act / approach life differently if you only had a Plan A.
- What barriers have you put up for yourself to make it seem like Plan A is not achievable
- What is are the small steps, incremental to get there?
- How long do you need to have Plan B in back pocket before it is no longer needed. Give it a deadline.
None of is nothing radical… it is just an idea…
Take the risk, take the plunge and work on Plan A like there is no Plan B. You never know what might happen.