Part 0 provided background.
Part 1 discussed the benefits of planning, and outlined the process.
Part 2 focused on your long-term aim: what does it means to live well, and what are the desired effects that you want to achieve?
Part 3 showed you how to conduct an analysis of relevant factors.
If you haven’t read the preceding instalments, please do so, otherwise this one won’t make much sense to you.
But assuming you have read them, and done some thinking along the way, you may now find yourself at a fork in the road. Having determined what it means (for you) to live well, and having analyzed the factors relevant to your situation, you might be thinking of several possible courses of action. The next task is to compare those different alternatives, and select the one that’s best for you.
A Few Thoughts About The Way Forward
When I refer to a course of action, or COA, I’m talking about a possible way forward to achieving the desired effects that you’ve outlined for yourself, and thus, the good life. Returning to the previous posts in the series, we considered an escapologist who wanted a life of independence, simplicity, and health, and figured they might achieve those effects by owning an organic farm. Farming is an option, but only one of many. COA 1: Organic Farm would need to be compared against the other COAs that our fictional escapologist developed during their analysis.
Your COAs may be drastically different from one another. Or they may be variations on a theme, with differences related to timing, the sequence of actions, and so on. If all of your proposed COAs are along a similar vein, it probably means you have a pretty good idea of what you want to achieve, but lack the nuts and bolts of a detailed plan. COA 1: Clean Kill might be the high-risk option whereby you quit your job today and immediately start farming. COA 2: Water Torture might be the more measured approach, where you maintain your shitty job for a few more years and take farming courses in your spare time.
One COA you should always consider is the status quo. This is important, I think, because your analysis may well have shone a positive light on your life, or aspects of it that you want to maintain. Conversely, if the status quo isn’t what you want, then including it among COAs for comparison will surely be the final nail in its coffin.
Finally, much of the discussion thus far has centred on the means by which we make money, be it employment or some other endeavour. While work is a significant part of our lives, it’s not the only part, and the COAs you consider don’t necessarily have to contain a work component.
My preferred way to compare COAs is to use a matrix with some sort of scoring mechanism. I list my COAs across the top, and list the assessment criteria down the side.
What assessment criteria should you use? Whatever you think makes sense. As a minimum, I’d advise you to ask yourself the following questions:
How effective will this COA be? Assuming all COAs have equal probability of success, how do they stack up against each other in terms of achieving your desired effects?
How quickly can this COA be implemented? And is this important?
How likely is this COA to be successful? How much risk is there? How much of the COA in question is dependent on others, or on chance?
How much ass pain does this COA involve? Because if it’s going to be a lot of work, and cause a lot of stress, what’s the point?
You could use a numerical score (1 = low ass pain, 5 = yer killin me), or you could use a ranking system (of all the COAs under consideration, which involved the greatest ass pain? the next greatest? and so on). Both have their merits, so try both systems and see what you come up with. If one criterion is more important than the rest, consider a weighting system.
To demonstrate how this works, let’s return to our fellow escapologist who wants a greater degree of financial freedom, good health, and a simple life. But imagine, if you will, that their analysis led them to consider three vastly different COAs: 1) organic farmer; 2) minimalist urban barista; and 3) bohemian writer.
Here’s how the comparison might look:
If our notional escapologist friend ended up with these results, they should give strong consideration to COA 2. If nothing else, such an exercise will expose the relative merits and weaknesses of each COA. The trick is to choose assessment criteria that are meaningful to you, and based on the end result you’re trying to achieve.
That’s it for this week. In the next and final instalment, we’ll wrap things up by looking at key aspects of your final plan, as well as ways to measure performance.