I first read about developing a plan B while reading Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky. I was a bit skeptical about the idea, because clearly who has time to develop a Plan B when one is knee deep in Plan A!?!
It also scared the bajesus out of me—I’ve been doing this social work thing for long enough to feel it as part of my identity. Could I really even think about pursuing a Plan B? That seemed like crazy talk… Yet, as I continued to think about it and was challenged to identify who I am outside of being a social worker and a mom, I started to understand why this strategy could be important and felt a little excitement in my chest. Excited at the prospect of there being something more…that I was potentially capable of something more…more than what I was already doing…more than being a social worker (and a mom)…and once I embraced that idea it started to feel like the possibilities were endless. So, I took a deep breath and a leap of faith (in myself) and decided I would explore a Plan B.
Yet, as I continued to think about it and was challenged to identify who I am outside of being a social worker and a mom, I started to understand why this strategy could be important and felt a little excitement in my chest. Excited at the prospect of there being something more…that I was potentially capable of something more…more than what I was already doing…more than being a social worker (and a mom). Once I embraced that idea it started to feel like the possibilities were endless.
So, I took a deep breath and a leap of faith (in myself) and decided I would explore a Plan B.
I tucked my skepticism aside and really allow myself the opportunity to explore what other skills/hobbies/work I could do that would bring me happiness and joy. Cause duh, the world needs more people who are happy. I explored things not at all related to social work—things I had never really allowed myself to believe were possible. There were already a few hobbies I was investing just a little bit of time in, like photography, but developing a Plan B meant pushing it further. It meant actually making concrete steps towards something new, and not leaving my hobby as just a hobby. Not because you actually plan to leave, but because it leaves you with a choice.
It changes the script in a pretty major way—investing time and energy into a Plan B means that each day that you continue to do social work (or nursing, or aid work, or ANY career) you do it because it is a choice you are making. Not something you are doing just because you don’t know what else you could do or because now you’ve been doing it for so long you’re just sort of stuck in it.
My Plan B has opened me up to new possibilities and brought an excitement back into my life about learning and growing personally, an excitement I hadn’t felt in a very.long.time.
So how can YOU create your own Plan B?
Here are a few ideas for how to take those first steps:
1. Take time to think about what you like to do
What did youin the past when you had the time that brought you joy? Dig deep. Do you love flowers? Maybe your Plan B is a flower shop. Do you love (or used to love) playing an instrument? Maybe your Plan B is giving individual lessons. Do you love all things nature? Maybe your Plan B is being a conservationist or working at a state park. Do you enjoy party planning? Maybe your Plan B is being a wedding planner. Love working with kids? Maybe it’s time to pursue education or child care. And if you don’t know yet what it is that you love, then try some things that sound interesting to you or take one of those career path personality tests to get some ideas.
2. Make small concrete steps toward Plan B
Once you’ve thought about the things you love, the things that bring you to life, that make you feel excited and maybe a little like a kid again…it’s time to actually make some concrete steps. I suggest starting out with some small steps. I turned my camera to manual mode…and left it there. That was my first step.
3. Do some research
Once you’ve taken the first step, do some research. Find out what it might actually take to make your Plan B a reality. Write down your thoughts and ideas, what sounds exciting as well as what sounds terrifying.
4. Keep pursuing Plan B
Then it’s really just continuing to take steps. As small as you want or as big as you want.
5. Assess continuaously
And continue to assess–is this Plan B still bringing you joy? Are there parts of it you love and other parts you still need more time with? Or maybe all this thinking about a Plan B is just confirming your love of your Plan A? Regardless, you’ll have learned something new along the way and more importantly perhaps, learned more about yourself and what you are capable of.
Starting a blog is the biggest step I’ve taken in my advancement of a Plan B. Of course, I’m a little late to the blog-game and would actually need at least 60 hours of dedication per week to make it be something that could actually be a career, but you know what? It brings me joy. I’ve realized I love to write and reflect and share ideas with others. And if, for some reason, my current job was ever in question (lay-offs or another redesign of our child welfare system…both of which aren’t actually all that far-fetched possibilities), I might actually decide to pursue my Plan Bs (cause I have more than one now!).
So find what brings you joy…and do more of it. And do it, as part of your own self-care plan.
My life has changed in major ways due to pursuing my Plan B’s…good, wonderful, life-giving ways. I have no doubt that if you take the time to really figure out what gives you joy and pursue that (in whatever small ways you can) you too will find that having a Plan B is a game changer. You’ll not only be excited about your Plan B, but if you keep choosing your Plan A, you’ll grow to love and appreciate it more too!
So join me, develop your Plan B, and share it with the rest of us!!
And if you know someone who really really really does need to work on a Plan B (you know who I’m talking about, those that are clearly burnt out and not really being too effective anymore in their Plan A), share this post with them—and provide them support if/when they start making progress on that Plan B.