The Life Plan Review Needs Sociability

By Marshall Goldsmith

You can institute your own Life Plan Review (LPR), which aims to close the gap between what you plan to do in your life and what you actually get done. 

There are four steps: 

  1. You and each member of the weekly meeting take turns to report your answers to a fixed set of six questions that have been documented for improving your life. 
  2. In the days between the weekly LPR meetings, you build the habit of self-monitoring by tracking these questions daily. 
  3. Review your plan weekly for relevance and personal need. 
  4. Don’t do this alone. 

It’s a little like the game of golf. Although golf is one of the rare sports activities that can be enjoyably pursued alone, like skiing, swimming, cycling, and running, golf is a test of how well you play with others. It also models the benefits of the LPR. 

An avid golfer will play a round by himself when playing partners are unavailable, or if they’re pressed for time, or they want to work on parts of their game. But if they catch up to another solo player on the course, the two singles will immediately form a twosome. It’s one of the many endearing examples of golf etiquette: Single players are never left to play alone unless they prefer it. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme

Given the choice, the same avid golfer would always prefer playing in a foursome, whether the group is filled out with friends, family, or strangers. Golf is the most social of all sports. You walk the course together, chatting between shots about business, vacation, or events of the day. Sometimes you even take a break midway through the round to share a meal. 

These sociability elements are why a golf foursome meets all the requirements of a well-run meeting, such as the weekly review of your LPR that I’m recommending. The game embodies the four actions of our earning template, aided and abetted by the connective tissue of community. 

It demands compliance. In a serious foursome, you show up at the first tee on time, you play the ball as it lies (you do not improve the ball’s situation), you don’t get do-overs (aka mulligans), you count every stroke and penalty. There’s even a dress code.

It honors personal accountability. You own the credit or discredit for every shot. You can’t blame your lapses on anyone else. You cannot delude yourself or others about the quality of your game. If you’re rusty or unprepared or simply not as good as you claim to be, a round of golf will expose the truth. 

Golf runs on follow-up and measurement. Players keep score for themselves and their playing partner. You report your score after every hole. You post your score on a public database to maintain an honest handicap index. And no matter how ardently you recall your good shots and overlook your bad ones in the post-round review with your playing partners, the only admissible evidence is what’s written on your scorecard. The game does not tolerate alternative facts. 

Most importantly, the game embodies what I value in a community. There are rules for behavior. Judgment and cynicism are not tolerated. You applaud a player’s well-executed shot, say nothing unkind about a poor one. You help search for another player’s lost ball. 

It’s also a community whose members are committed to getting better—and sharing their ideas with others. That’s not an insignificant distinction. Unlike most one-on-one sports, golf can be a learning experience. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme

If I face off against a professional baseball pitcher or the club tennis pro, the only thing I’ll learn is humiliation, that I’m not even remotely in their league. Not so in golf. Mediocre players want to play with better players, knowing that they can elevate their game simply by observing really fine players—the mechanics of their swing, their smooth tempo, the discipline of their pre-shot routine. The better players welcome this. They are very generous with advice if asked (that’s also the concept of feedforward). 

It’s a gender-blind community, in which anyone can be anyone else’s equal or superior in skill and in scoring. In the presence of a good golfer, there’s no condescension or interrupting—only respect. 

Golf done right venerates meritocracy and justice. Nothing is given. Everything is earned—the result of practice, maximizing talent, and an urge for constant improvement. It embodies our definition of an earned life because the choices, risks, and efforts we make can be directly linked to an experience we value, regardless of our score. 

If you replace the word golf with LPR meeting in the previous paragraphs, you have all the reasons to adopt the LPR and make it a group exercise. Do not be deterred because forming an LPR group seems daunting to you—a logistical headache, too much trouble, more risk than reward. Trust me, it’s not. 

It’s a weekly gathering that can save your day, your year, your world. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme
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