25th April, 2023

What’s Your Flight Plan?

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

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On this episode

Do you ever feel like someone else is running your life? Do you find yourself just following a set of instructions in everything you do? Without realising it, we often permit other people to control our lives. It’s like living a life we don’t enjoy on autopilot without questioning it The thing is, it’s not too late to design your own flight plan. You have the power to take control and lead the life you want to live.

In this quick dip episode, we highlight the importance of designing our own flight plan. We explain why working happier with your best interest in mind is the true key to success. You only have one life, and it is fully yours. Don’t let others take control of your happiness and success. Follow what it is that your heart truly wants.

If you want to design your flight plan and start taking control of your life, stay tuned to this episode.

Show links

Reasons to listen

  1. Uncover why working harder doesn’t lead to happiness.
  2. Know what it’s like to take control of your time and your work.
  3. Learn how to design your flight plan.

Episode highlights


Your Flight Plan


How Do You Want to Live?


Happiness Leads to Success


How to Become Happy in Your Journey


Take Control of Your Life, Work and Time


Getting Close to Your Ideal Life

Episode transcript

Rachel Morris: This is a You Are Not a Frog Quick Dip, a tiny taster of the kinds of things we talk about on our full podcast episodes. I’ve chosen today’s topic to give you a helpful boost in the time it takes to have a cup of tea so you can return to whatever else you’re up to feeling energised and inspired. For more tools, tips, and insights to help you thrive at work don’t forget to subscribe to You Are Not a Frog wherever you get your podcasts.

Have you ever got the distinct impression that someone else is running your life? That you are just following a set of instructions that are for somebody else, and you are just living this life that you don’t really enjoy, that you never would’ve chosen, and you can’t quite work out how you ended up there.

Last year I was on an aeroplane coming back from our holiday in Turkey, and the doors were shut for takeoff and we were just about to taxi away when the pilot came on the tannoy and he said, ‘Hmm, we appear to have a problem because we have just filed our flight plan based on the computer readout from this aeroplane, and it doesn’t match up at all with a flight plan that was filed by the airline a week ago. We are gonna have to investigate.’

So amid much sighing, and waiting and huffing and puffing, 20 minutes later, he comes back onto the tannoy and says, ‘Hmm. It seems that when they filed the flight plan a week ago, they forgot to put on a payload. They forgot the fact that we were gonna have passengers, that we were gonna have luggage, and this plane does not have enough fuel to complete the journey that we want to make. It’s not gonna make it to the destination.’

And at the time, I was just struck by how similar to life that was, that if you let somebody else design your life, then actually it’s not gonna work for you. You may well crash and burn as you go along. And that got me thinking just how often I have felt that I’m not living a life that I wanna live, that someone else has designed the life for me and it’s not quite what I wanted and it’s not actually working that well for me.

And more to the point I might not get to the destination becauseI haven’t got enough fuel on board. And it just doesn’t suit me. And it’s very, very common in the coaching world for us to get completely obsessed with goals. What do you wanna achieve? Where do you wanna get to? Because society seems to be obsessed with achievement without actually thinking, ‘How am I gonna get there?’

And we get very focussed on outcomes on what level we want to get to on our achievements, on the hierarchy, on the running this, the having the big house, the big projects, the big businesses, they’re amazing practices, all those sorts of things. We don’t actually think about how we wanna live. I remember distinctly when I went on a business retreat a few years ago when I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my career and what I wanted to do with the training organisation.

A business coach sat me down. I thought, great, we’re gonna set some goals. We’re gonna work out what the most important things are that I’m gonna have to do, and, and set some targets, et cetera, et cetera. And you know what he did? He sat me down and he said, ‘Right, Rachel, in five years time, what do you want your life to look like?’

‘How do you want to be living? Do you want to be working? How much do you want to be working? How much leisure time do you want? Do you want to be in one place? Do you want to be travelling around? Do you want to be going out to work? Do you want to be working from home? How much time do you want to live with your family? What about hobbies?’

And it brought me up really short because I thought, well, it’s more important to work out what the outcomes we want from the business, what we want to achieve, and I’d got things round the wrong way. It was more important to think about how I wanted to live than what I wanted to achieve, because there’s no point achieving all that sort of thing if you are not gonna reach your destination, if you’re gonna run out of fuel along the way and if you’re gonna be totally miserable.

I think in the medical profession and other high stress professions, we get this so wrong. We just get so focussed on being that person that we think we want to be, that we forget about how it’s gonna affect our lives and how we’re actually gonna feel along the way if we just get caught up in being that certain person and delivering and delivering in order to hit those goals, be it financial or be it achievement based careers goals that we soldier on and on working every hour God sends and not being particularly happy and letting vast chunks of our life just pass us by thinking, ‘Well, I’ll be happy when I’ve achieved that. I’ll be happy when I’ve done that. I’ll be happy once I’ve retired.’

But we forget that life is about the journey. It’s not about the end destination and frankly, I know some people that are working so hard and are so stressed that they’re not gonna get to their destination. They’re not gonna get to retirement because they will become sick. They will burn out. And we know that stress has a huge impact on your physical and your mental health.

And frankly, I don’t think it’s worth being a millionaire or the chief medical officer if you’re just miserable with it. And so we get things so wrong. We think that in order to be happy, we have to be successful, and in order to be successful, we just have to work really, really hard. All the research shows us that actually in order to be successful, you need to be happy.

So it’s good news. All along the question is, How do we get to that point where we are really happy on the journey as well? Well, this is where we need to design our own flight plans, because most of us have no idea what we’re aiming at in terms of a life that we can live in, which we’ve got a great work-life balance, in which we’ve got good connections with our family in which we’ve got meaning and purpose to back that all up.

I remember coaching a mid-career GP and she was saying to me, ‘Oh, I just want to have a day off. I can’t get to my day off. Can you help me do that?’ And she was a partner. She worked three days a week with all the extra admin that comes with that.

She had a job for a day a week at the local CCG. She was an appraiser and she also ran another committee. She was finding that she was so busy, she wasn’t really getting to any of these roles, and she certainly wasn’t doing anything well. So we started off by saying, ‘Right, let’s get really real about what is going on.’

So we plotted out a week on a piece of paper using some post-it notes. So how much time was she working really? So we put down all the admin that she had to do, all the surgeries that she had to do, the amount of time the additional roles took her, the amount of time she was prepping for the appraisals, how long it took to do the appraisals.

What about when she was duty, doctor? How long did that take? What about the admin she was doing at weekends? We got it all done and we plotted it out on a piece of paper and once we’d done that, I put it in front of her and we just looked at it and I said to her, ‘What do you notice?’ And she looked at it and said, ‘Hmm, I appear to be working about 13 sessions a week. No wonder I can’t get my day off.’

So often we take on this role and that role because no one else is doing it, or we think it might be exciting or good for our career, and we fail to drop anything from anywhere else. And so we just layer one job on another, more responsibilities, all of which take time.

And what ends up happening is you’re just trying to do this stuff off the corner of your desk and spending all your time at the weekends just catching up on stuff that you didn’t manage to do. So what did we do next? Well, we did this exercise again, but this time we talked about the ideal week and we plotted out what an ideal week would look like.

Now, on a side note, quite recently I was in a training workshop and we were asked to think about what our lives would look like if we got everything that we wanted. Everything that we needed. So I was just picturing what, what would it look like if I could wave a magic wand if I’d won the lottery, if I had everything I could possibly want or need.

And you know what? My life didn’t look that different, but what did look different was I had more time and space. I wasn’t rushed. I wasn’t hurried and loads of us think that we’ll be happy when we get more money, when we achieve more, but actually it’s not really money we need. It’s time and space that we need.

Now this is good news because you are in control about how you manage your work and how you manage your time. And this was very, very similar for the partner that I was coaching. We looked at what her ideal week looked like. And she was able to put in exactly how much clinical work she wanted to do, the sorts of roles that she wanted to do, what she wanted to do in her time off, hobbies, when she wanted to see her family, spend time with her kids.

That new week looked very, very different from the week that she currently had. And what we were able to do is put these side by side and just compare and contrast them. And at which point I said to her, What do you wanna do now? And she looked at it and it became really obvious that she just had to drop one of the roles in order to get some time off either that or continue doing what she was doing.

The problem is if you continue doing what you’ve always done, you are always gonna get what you’ve always got. That’s the problem if we continue to let other people design our lives. Other people tell us how many sessions we ought to do or how much money we’ve got to earn and not think about this and think, how much do I really need and how do I want to live?

Then we are playing to someone else’s tune the whole time and we’re constantly chasing happiness that we are never gonna get, cause it’s someone else’s idea of what we should be doing. And often we are not focusing on the things that will truly make us happy. So for me it would be having a spacious life, having time spent with friends to create stuff — not always being nose to the grindstone.

So if you find yourself on this journey of life, feeling overwhelmed, feeling exhausted, feeling a bit miserable, thinking that your life just seems to be piloted by somebody else, and it’s time to file your own flight plan, look at the current flight plan and think to yourself, ‘Is this what I would’ve chosen? Is this what I want?’

Get really realistic about how much time you actually have and how much work you actually have. Once you’ve got realistic, get imaginative, get creative. Think. How would I love my life to look? If I could wave a magic wand, what would I do? If I won the lottery, what would I do? If I was giving some advice to my best mate, what would I tell them would be good for them? What would I say?

That is how you ought to live and plan it out. Look at what changes are needed in your life. Now, I don’t think anyone is ever gonna get to the completely ideal plan of their life because things crop up. We have other responsibilities. We have things that we will choose to do.

But getting as close as we can surely is one of the ways in which we can ensure that we are thriving, that we can survive the day job, and we’re actually enjoying our work. We’re enjoying our lives, and we are not feeling constantly that we are on a hamster wheel or chasing our tail and never doing any of the stuff that really makes life worth living..

So in the show notes, we have put a link to the Thrive Weekly Planner. This is a tool that I used when I was coaching this doctor, and it really, really helps you to get clear on how you want to live. Now, I try and do this every three months or so to make sure that I’m not going too far off course, and I can do these little course corrections all the time because if you don’t know your destination, how I want to live, as well as what I want to achieve, then you’ll find that you’re not happy, that you’re living somebody else’s life.

But if you can get super clear on what a great life, a great journey will look like for you, then you’ll start to become aware of the choices that you’ve got. You’ll start to know what to say yes to, what to say no to. You’ll feel happier, you’ll feel more in control, and ultimately, this will be better for your patients, for your colleagues, for your friends, for your family, and for you.