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Don’t Forget Your Plan A

plan a[Today’s article comes to us from Dr. Joel Wade, a world traveler, former NCAA champion and highly regarded specialist in the study of true happiness (rather than the superficial nonsense touted by today’s pop psychologists).]

It’s good to have a back-up plan, or a plan B, especially in uncertain times; but it’s also important to remember that this is only for when your plan A is threatened. Often, the best thing you can do is to fully commit to your primary vision; sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

It’s excellent to have a plan that you can fall back on if things don’t work out, but today, I want to talk about some elements of committing to your plan A (i.e. staying put) that can be easily neglected… because we take them for granted.

If you’re thinking of moving away from your home, be it out of state or out of the country, before you do so, consider what you will be leaving behind.

If you have family and friends where you live, if you have neighbors whom you know and who know you, those relationships can be a tremendous source of security and support. If you’ve always had these people in your life, you may not even think how much you depend on your connection with them. I don’t just mean that you know you could ask them for help if you need it; there is something extremely valuable, for your health and happiness and overall wellbeing, to having regular human contact with people whom you know and trust.

Relationships are built on trust. You can enjoy any positive interaction with a fellow human being, even if it’s a friendly hello at the grocery store or a smile as you walk by on the street. But when you know and trust people and see them in person, make eye contact, shake hands or hug, and can settle into a comfortable conversation, the positive benefits are huge.

If you intend to move away from these relationships, it’s important to acknowledge and accept that you will be losing something valuable. Our relationships can be the most fundamental source of joy and satisfaction in life.

The positive contact we have with people improves our heart rate variability and our immune system and reduces inflammation. It also just plain feels good.

Also, your long term, trust-based relationships are people who are more likely to be there for you – and you for them – if trouble strikes.

When our kids were little, we talked about whom they know in the neighborhood. If there was ever any trouble, which houses could they run to? Which neighbors do we know well enough to trust? There were (and are) many to choose from, but a few top the list. That’s a great thing to have when there are kids involved, but it’s still important if there’s just one or two of you.

We have neighbors across the street who are well into their 80s. They are two of the people whom our kids knew they could trust and go to if there was ever trouble. They’re our friends. We take time with them, and keep an eye on them, and if they need anything, they know they can ask us.

That’s good for them, but it’s also good for us. It’s great to have people you trust, but it’s also deeply satisfying to be somebody who is trustworthy. That’s what true friendship is built on. It’s that mutual sense of trust that takes time and experience to build.

If you’re thinking of moving, and doing so includes leaving town, be sure to factor in the loss of contact and support, and the loss of years and possibly decades of earned and established trust with people whose relationships you may have, to some degree, taken for granted.

Another element of your plan A that can be overlooked is familiarity. If you’ve lived somewhere for a long time, you know things about the area that you didn’t when you first moved there. You know the roads, the stores, the restaurants. You know the terrain, the weather; you know the nearby towns. You probably know some “secret” driving routes to avoid traffic.

You also probably know who puts on a good roof, or can take care of a plumbing or electrical problem dependably.

Of course you can learn all of this over time in a new location. But you know them now right where you are.

Then there’s the political aspect. If we are to have a country that values individual liberty and self-responsibility – and true win/win capitalism, as opposed to win/lose crony capitalism – it is people who need to advocate, argue, and fight for this, right here at home.

What the Tea Partiers have been focused on during the past couple of years is mostly at the local, grassroots level. If you happen to be a high profile, politically active, charismatic person with high name recognition nationally or throughout your state, you may be able to have a big impact – as people like Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and others are having now.

But most of us do not have that big of a national presence. Where we can have a big impact, though, is locally, among the people and the community who knows us and trusts us.

Effective persuasion does not come through bullying, nagging, or threatening. Effective persuasion comes through building relationships of trust and respect. When people know you, trust you, and respect you, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. You may have a greater sphere of influence within your own community than you realize, because you may not think much about all of the daily contact you have with different folks.

A friend of mine once said, “If you want to have a successful business, don’t move.”

By living your life with benevolence and integrity, by settling into a place and treating people well over time, you build for yourself a community of people with whom you share trust, respect, joy, and history. You build for yourself a home.

That is a successful plan A. And it’s a much more valuable resource than you might think.

You can move somewhere else, and build it there, too, but it takes time, effort, and patience. If that’s necessary, or if you weigh all the options and moving away is the best one, that’s fine; just make sure that in pursuing your plan B, you’re not casting aside a perfectly good plan A.

[Joel F. Wade, Ph.D. is the author of Mastering Happiness. He is a marriage and family therapist and life coach who works with people around the world via phone and Skype. You can get a FREE Learning Optimism E-Course if you sign up at his website, www.drjoelwade.com.]

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  • robodogy

    Thank you. Many important & valid points made here. Plus I’ll always take a warm fuzzy over a cold prickly.

  • Jack

    Dr. Wade — Good points all. Two comments: your description of the closeness of family/friends sounds ideal. But in my experience, not all that many families share this bond. There is almost a price for admission to the group and that’s belief in a common religion or common political view or common conformity to “authority.” Meaning family members will side against a member who is not in conformity to their family values.

    And then there is “community” which again often demands as the price of admission a commonality of belief in the authority and dominance of community values over individual values. In both my personal and professional experience, the two most dangerous groups for an individual are family and community. It’s all well and good for a “community” (legal or ad hoc) to believe in “save the forests” until they tell you you can’t use your own trees for lumber or fuel and want to specify how your own property is to be managed. Or a community claims rain water as “community” water as they’ve done in Oregon and put someone in jail who used rainwater captured on his own property for his own use. All by way of saying that “close” communities and families with inflexible and often irrational beliefs are prepared to shun or cause harm to a “member” who does not share beliefs.

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