Life Reimagined

What Comes First: The Goal or the Game Plan?

How you approach your reinvention depends on what kind of person you are – but experts agree that everyone should look before they leap

From a vague sense of needing something more to a resolute decision to embark in a new direction, different people come to the decision to reinvent via different routes. But what comes next? Should you “follow your bliss” at all costs? Or should you invest time in plotting and planning your next move? What comes first: the Big Idea or the game plan?

For Jan Genovese, life turned in a way she never imagined. Recently divorced, coming off “a long marriage,” she had a vision for how her new life was going to be: Single, focused on her high-profile retail advertising career and her friends. Then, she met Mark Wildman, a local news producer and former anchor, in 2010. The two became a couple and daydreamed about options for their newfound life together. Over time, they settled on buying an idyllic bed and breakfast inn – until they went to an innkeeping class. The investment to get the capacity they’d need to make any money was prohibitive.

“We just lost our dreams,” she said.

But not for long. Within a couple of weeks, a broker contacted them about buying a local Italian restaurant with 27 employees. The two ran some numbers and decided to go for it, finalizing the purchase in May 2013. It was a departure from their original plan, but both the business and relationship are exceeding expectations, Genovese says.

Sometimes, pursuing a passion project or goal without regard for potential consequences can be counterproductive to the reinvention process, says executive coach Lisa Kohn, principal of Mount Vernon, NY-based Chatsworth Consulting and co-author of The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes to Being the Leader You Want to Be. If Genovese had blindly followed the idea of being an innkeeper without taking time to research the specifics, it could have been financially devastating and even had a negative impact on her relationship. Doing the homework helped her understand how to recognize a different opportunity when it came along.

“You could be setting these huge, huge goals. ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to write that New York Times bestseller.’ And then when you don’t do it, you wake up every day depressed,” Kohn says.

High-performance psychologist Mike Gervais, PhD works with athletes, military members, executives and others in his Santa Monica, Calif. office to fine-tune them for their highest ability. He thinks the question is best answered by your personality type and risk tolerance. Gervais believes you must have passion for the idea of a life reinvention, but be open to approaching it in different ways based on who you are and how you make decisions. Some people are “explorers” and can plunge ahead, figuring it out as they go along. Other people start with a kernel of an idea, but are happier if they research the best way for them to make it work instead of setting unrealistic goals that can jeopardize their careers, families, and finances, he says.

“It begins with a fundamental question: How do I engage with life?” he says. “The people who are out exploring and aggressively going after things think that the sitting and planning is crazy. People who need a plan will be unhappy if they try to be explorers.”

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll provide a few guidelines from experts on how to determine is your reinvention should start with a resolution or a game plan.

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