It’s time to do some longer term planning. A client has just finished a block of training or is looking to forecast out for a yearlong journey into the world of physical development. This is very cool. We like this.
Longer plans, however, require…well…more planning. There are more necessary steps to completion; in the simplest terms—folks have to do more shit to get the goal done. We have to consider looking ahead while also supporting every day action. There must be a vindication for the struggles, and we need something powerful to avoid as well as something rad to work toward. Within all of this we need tools for framing, tools for acting, and a solid position to guide someone from.
We’ll chat about all of this using the End of Block meeting structure at BSP NOVA as our guide.
The EoB Meeting
Let’s walk through the meeting, then we’ll circle back to the constituent parts. Before we get rolling, a quick, two-part preface.
First—each End of Block meeting at BSP NOVA has a slightly different flavor. Sure, everyone fills out the same forms, but the content of each meeting is different depending on the individual and the coach running the meeting. We follow the same structure, but each coach might end up using different tools during the course of the meeting. I’m going to present all of the possible tools we use, but just know that they don’t all get used every time. It varies, just like the product in Chris Merritt’s newly styled coif.
Second—the EoB structure is used for yearlong planning as well. The structure—the levels, etc.—just expands out to fill a year rather than four months. It’s the same break down, only blocks become bigger levels, programs become levels within the blocks, and on down to daily action. This, sports fans, is a perfect world. We don’t always get a perfect world, as I’ve mentioned throughout these lessons. But, just know that the structure doesn’t have to change.
Ok, let’s a keep a moving!
Here’s how it goes down:
As a client is approaching the end of their training block, they are sent an email with a link to our End of Block form, which you can check out here:
They have the option to do a complete re-assessment, FMS and all, although this is rarely chosen. Most folks choose to just sit down with us in person, a smaller few choose to do a phone call—usually because they’re schedule doesn’t match up with a sit down—and fewer still choose to just have an email exchange. We give them the option of choosing how they meet, but the meeting isn’t optional. It’s part of the coaching process.
We email them the form to give them time to think and write—at least a few days. Chances are they’re going to have a hard time filling out the levels, and that’s totally cool. That’s why we’re here, to help them sort it out and get clear. We’re like a young Obi Wan Kenobi…without the light saber or the force. Which sucks, but you know what I’m getting at.
Coaches budget anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes per meeting for those clarity-seeking meetings, and during the course of that meeting they use the EoB form as a reference to ask open-ended questions and to reflect answers back to the client. You know, all of that conversational stuff we covered during the End of Program Coaching lesson.
When they first sit down, the coach says something like, “Ok, catch me up and walk me through this,” in reference to the EoB form. Then the coach sits, listens, and asks questions to understand and to help the client get clearer where necessary. As the fog lifts, the coach has the client state things in clearer terms and write down those more clearly stated things—be them goals, levels, etc. Since we mentioned goals and levels, let’s jump in on some talk on those suckers.
Even with solid instructions, a questionnaire to guide them, and time to think, a lot of people have a hard time crafting block or yearlong goals and levels that march them into achieving those goals. I know I said that already, but it’s worth repeating.
Goals by themselves are scary to most people—the potential that exists within a goal, declaring it, stating a path to achieve it, and committing to that path is enough to cause a lifetime’s worth of second guessing in a miniscule amount of time.
Sure, they could apply themselves and earn something awesome. But they could also fail—and that’s a big fucking tiger for people to slay and move past. Many times it comes out as statements like, “I don’t know if this is a stupid goal or not”, or, “I don’t know if any of this actually makes sense.” Sometimes they are correct in wondering if it makes sense, but most of the time it’s a pre-emptive cushion because they’re judging the shit out of themselves.
So, many times folks come in with only one or two levels filled in—sometimes without any. Other times they come in with levels that don’t match with the goal they’ve declared.
It’s all evidence to reiterate that this is hard for our clients, and they need our patient guidance to get this sorted.
This is where open-ended questions are a mighty savior. This is where the they usually ask us what we think their levels should be, and we have to do our absolute best to avoid telling them what we think the levels should be—even if it’s obvious and staring us right in the face. I’ve found the best course of action, in this case, to respond with something like, “Honestly, those would be my levels, not yours. I think it would be better if you came up with them and I just helped you think through them, cool?” Then we can get back to the questions.
When the client gets stuck, it helps to start with the goal and start asking questions about it that get the client to elaborate. The “so that…” statement is especially useful here. If a person knows why they are doing something, it’s easier for them to flush out a path to get to their goal. A lot of times this gets them to elaborate enough for the levels to become clear so that they can write them out. And as those levels come out, or get clearer, the client fills in the lines.
Let’s look at an example.
Recently, one of our clients at BSP NOVA told us that he was planning on doing two weeks worth of hiking in New Mexico and he wants to be prepped for it so that he could enjoy himself while he was on the trip. With this in mind, we talked about his current training if it was enough to prep him for two weeks full of mountainous scenery walking.
He decided it wasn’t.
So I asked what he thought he needed to do to be prepared.
He said that he needed to maintain his strength while improving his cardio and doing more hikes on the weekends to prep for actually being out there. (No bullshit, this came out of him. It wasn’t my doing.)
Then we could take that statement and break it into four levels so that he could systematically step closer to the thousands of steps he’ll take per day on his trip.
The levels went something like this:
1—Maintain strength training while upping gym cardio and adding in 2 hikes per month
2—Adding in more gym cardio while maintaining strength and going on 4 hikes per month
3—All the same while doing 8 hikes per month
4—All the same while increasing the intensity of the hikes
Once we had a clear goal, and a clear why, we could lay out the steps to get there.
What if they just can’t figure it out?
If a person is struggling to get out a longer-term goal and a level system to achieve it, we cut the time frame back and focus smaller. Sometimes it’s right to stretch the person and challenge them to think through it. But sometimes we just have to stay within the client’s domain of competence—or at least what they perceive as their domain of competence—and play the long game by building the skill and prepping them to think longer-term next time.
The Other Tools
What if someone’s having a hard time getting specific or figuring where they want to start, or figuring out the little action steps that will help them achieve each level? That’s where 5/3/first comes in.
We list out five potential things we could do, narrow that list to three priorities, then choose one of the three things to start with—all while reminding them that the five total things from the list don’t go away. They are just starting with the thing/action that they chose. This works for building out levels, actions in between levels, daily habits, etc. When someone gets stuck and needs to list out ideas or has a hard time setting priorities, bust this sucker out.
Remember the heaven-hell form you filled out at the beginning of this Faction semester? We use that with our clients, too. We use this to help them get clearer on goals if they aren’t sure where to start and also to help them sort out some good old motivational tension. That thing we don’t want is often a more powerful motivator than the thing we do want…so we have people write it out.
We don’t have a heaven-hell form drawn up, we just have our folks write it out on a sheet o’ paper. It doesn’t get used during every EoB or yearlong planning meeting, it’s often a part of the conversation that takes place during the meeting, but if it seems as though it’s going to be useful for the person going into the meeting, I send it with them to fill out and bring back with them.
The Perfect Breakdown
What if everything works out perfectly? The client sets a goal for a year out and then develops the corresponding levels and actions between levels to get it down. What does that breakdown look like?
Yearlong Goal: Something slightly scary that makes people strive
- Levels to Yearlong Goal: 3 blocks of training (a block is 4 months)
- Each block has a goal that corresponds with the yearlong goal
- Training Levels in each block: 4 phases of programming
- Each training phase as a goal that corresponds with the block and the yearlong goal
- Weekly Actions: GAB focus for the week or day
- This could also be a weekly “One Thing”
The person has a big thing to strive for, something that will take fifty-two weeks worth of effort. That’s laid out first.
Then we look backwards at the next biggest block of time—the blocks. What three big things can get done to take the person to their yearlong goal? Those are the block goals.
Within the block there are four programs. The goal of each program will take the person closer to the block goal.
Each program is four weeks long. The action of each week should take the person closer to the program goal.
If all of this lines up, it’s perfect. The act of just laying it out to give someone something to start with is a beautiful thing. IT IS GOING TO CHANGE as the year goes on. As the sage philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Each person will, without a doubt, get punched in the face throughout the course of the year. I mean that 100% metaphorically. Unless you train fighters—they’re definitely getting punched in the face.
I’m not sure where I first heard the next clichéd saying that I’m about to lay on you, but it’s heavy on the truth side of things:
Plans never work but planning always does.
We need a course charted so that we have something to course correct. If we don’t we are flying blind.
Getting it Done
To pull off planning like this, and act on it effectively, people have to consider all of the shit they need to get it done. Otherwise this all ends up as really nice thoughts on paper—the planning needs some specific action guides to make sure people fit the plan into their lives and carry it out. Here’s what we have people consider.
Schedule: When is it that the actions that take you closer to your goal are going to get done?
Resources: What do you need to get the job done? Do you have all you need? Are there things you need to get to make sure you can do the things you want to do?
Accountability: How would you like to be held accountable to your plan? What can we do to help?
Obstacles: What could get in the way of your success? There’s always something…
Strategies to Overcome Obstacles: What will you do to overcome the obstacles should they pop up?
Remember The Most Important Things
The most important thing is that our people have some sort of vision to act on. Everyone needs an aim to validate their struggles, otherwise it’s easy to disregard action. So, while the plan may not be perfect, it needs to exist. It’s likely going to change anyway, but we need it to get us going—we can always adjust along the way.
The equally most important thing is that action trumps a well-theorized plan. Things are rarely going to come out of someone’s brain perfectly, but if they have enough to act on, and we can course correct along the way, that’s fine. We just need action and often the goal, or the plan, becomes clearer. Be ready for that.