The Collaborative Marriage: Clearing Hurdles

How to talk about things no one wants to talk about.

We have a big, messy holder for our dreams, officially it’s called our 10 Year Plan. It also holds our 800 lb gorillas…

Last time we talked about the 10 Year Plan, I asked you to jot down a few notes about what brings you pleasure and what you feel grateful for. The really feel good stuff.

This time we’re going to look at the icky bits.

If what pleases you is at the heart of the plan for your life, it is flanked on one side by soft, inviting gratitude and on the other by an 800 lb gorilla. This 800 lb gorilla is something that you — and everyone in your life —knows, but no one talks about (or at least not in a productive way).

It’s too much debt. A job you hate or that bores the pants off you. It’s not getting to the gym, so much stuff that you can’t move in your apartment or house, drinking too much… It’s the things in life that you know are keeping you down, but you just don’t quite deal with.

We all have an 800 lb gorilla, or four. And for each gorilla, there is a critical risk — an action that needs to be taken.

It’s an emotional risk, an “I’m going to make myself extremely vulnerable to deal with this” kind of a risk. The 800 lb gorilla is the affair, the risk is talking about it. The 800 lb gorilla is you drink too much, the risk is stopping. The 800 lb gorilla is “I hate this job,” the risk is moving on.

These risks, though emotional and values-based, require physical engagement. You have to do something. Physical engagement is what I call the big tactics of achieving your dreams.

When it comes to 800 lb gorillas, identifying them is the first part of moving through them. Write them down (you can burn the paper when you’re done). That’s the big step. Call it for what it is, an 800 lb gorilla.

Then ask the question: What single action can I take to begin to clean this up so that I can move toward what I actually want?

The 800 lb gorilla and its related risk (the action you need to take) together with the optimism of pleasure and gratitude, provide the fodder for the next step: four questions that, when applied to the different facets of life, can get you moving toward your biggest, most audacious dreams.

What am I grateful for?

What pleases me?

What are my 800 lb gorillas?

How do I use all of that to move toward my dreams?

Note: This conversation about a 10 Year Plan is based on my own life, and working with loved ones.

This is not the same style of work that I do for business. Leading change for a brand is research and analytics, budgets and feasibility studies. It’s methodical with layers of checks and balances and myriads of decision makers. What I’m writing about here is deeply personal.

I can’t go to the finance department in my life, or see if the research group can do a feasibility study on my dreams. I have no HR guidelines to refer to in the conflict management of my personal life.

Turns out, our dreams are up to us.

And so, the 10 Year Plan and its messiness.

I create a 10 Year Plan because I simply cannot keep track of all the parts and all of the things that are genuinely important to my husband and I. I get swept up with things, or bored with them. Even what matters most deeply to us can be gone the instant a deadline goes south or a soul we love is sick.

Having a plan means that I don’t have to hold on so tightly. I can let go. So I hope that you’ll not only use the idea of a plan, but that you’ll let your plan breathe. It’s not rigid. You don’t have to be “on it.” Let it be there. For you. More like a $3 drawer organizer from IKEA than a big ass corporate brand strategy. Let it help you separate the spoons from the knives. Have it collaborate with the calendar on the refrigerator, and the suitcase ziplock that keeps shampoo from getting all over your underwear.

It’s not fancy. It’s buckets and bins to hold the bits and pieces that matter. Duct tape for your dreams.

This is the third post in Control Freak, a series on creating a personal 10 Year Plan. Click here to read the first post.

Originally published at

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