planning obsession

‘Not to Dream Boldly may turn out to be simply Irresponsible.’ George Leonard

My friends would tell you that I might be a bit of a strange fellow and perhaps it is true as planning is my all time favourite pass-time.
The personality of an obsessive planner could be described as a perfectionist on steroids. This planning obsession has been central to my life from early childhood.

Of all the daily tasks that make up a day – planning is my all time favourite. I think my obsession with the planning started at a young age. Being the eldest son of a single mother gave it fell to me to help organise the house chores. This was also my chance to laud it over my younger siblings as I assigned tasks like a military general!

Okay perhaps that is a little bit of an exaggeration. As the oldest I was my mother’s go to for almost everything and played well to my planning obsession. This included providing muscle for heavy tasks, disciplinarian for my younger brother and sister (I don’t think they have ever forgiven me), or being a shoulder to cry on.

There were many a Saturday night that I spent home with mom watching old movies or the hockey game. Girlfriends were not a common visitor to my home. Well not until the ‘ONE’ showed up in my life – but more about her on another post.

Back to my planning as an obsession.

Being an obsessive planner has been in my blood from an early age. I often spent whole days dreaming of what I would do once I put the plan into effect.

If my friends wanted to build a fort, it was up to me to get together the materials list, tools and Gantt Chart to get it done on time. Only kidding!

But I was always a dreamer. And my dreams were in technicolor with detailed drawings and plans. There are many late nights I recall as a teen spent in my room working on my ‘Life Plan’.

I had lost my dad when I was 10 and his hope was that I would not follow in his footsteps. My mother told me that his last wish was that all three of us would get good educations and not have to work hard.

My dad was a self-taught mechanic, auto body repairman and car dealership owner. All accomplished with a grade 2 education and not able to write more than his name. He worked hard for every dollar and paid cash for everything. My father died young of brain cancer and left us with enough money to buy a house.

I miss him to this very day!

I still remember the day as if it were yesterday – I was almost 10. My childhood ended in some ways that day. My dreaming changed to planning how to be the ‘man of the house’ at 10. The reality of loss came home quickly as the life I had known was blown away!

What to do with the plan when your life blows-up?

Loss has a way of changing your point of view. What you value changes and your plans go sideways. In my case the loss drove me to be more focused and determined. Unfortunately I didn’t acknowledge the loss until many years later and my relationships paid the price. But the my obsession with planning processes kept me on track when life went off the rails.

This planning obsession is far more than New Years Resolutions. We have all made and broke more resolutions at the beginning of the year than we want to admit. That is not real planning. A plan that will survive the ups and downs of life is one that is grounded in more than paper. It is written on our souls and is based on the dreams of childhood.

Put away your toys and grow-up!

We are told to put aside our childish ways as adults. But the real power of planning is when we allow our inner child to come forward and dream the impossible.

I have gone back to my childhood toys recently. I mean I’ve taken up the adult version of them. That means that I have to use my imagination – and be an obsessive planner resurrecting it from the grave of my childhood. It is not easy but in some way it is helping me to get back in touch with my inner ‘creative child’.

This kind of planning is what I believe made all the difference for me in the face of devastating lost. I believe it will change your life. When you throw off the limits imposed by society, culture and social norms planning becomes a powerful weapon.

I challenge you today to look at planning as a tool that can change your future. Planning as an obsession helped save my life from despair and hopelessness. I know it can help you overcome failure, fear of the future and open doors of opportunity for personal growth.


  • Larry Scarbeau is a community leader with over 35 years’ experience working with communities across Canada on issues related to poverty, homelessness and community development. Larry has worked with clients from the non-profit sector, the private sector and several Alberta municipal and provincial governments. His many years in the non-profit field have provided him with a wide range of experience across Alberta including the creation of several frontline housing projects that he led the construction and program development for in the Edmonton region. His major accomplishment resulted from his leadership of the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness that developed the provincial 10-year plan to end homeless, A Plan for Alberta, that received approval from the Alberta Government in 2009 as the provinces policy in addressing homelessness. He is a dedicated community leader who understands the critical housing issues facing seniors, low income families and single adults and the root causes of homelessness. He is known for his successful implementation of programs based on best practices and his focus on getting measurable results, addressing concerns of stakeholders and managing change. He has provided leadership to several successful projects, small and medium sized organizations and has strong people management skills. He is known for getting results that meet or exceed expectations that are delivered on time and on budget. His major focus now is helping people enjoy the safety and security of affordable housing to create a healthy home for families struggling with limited resources. He is also passionate about coaching others to become leaders who make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. He is most proud of his three adult children and 5 wonderful grandchildren. Larry is a model train hobbyist, aspiring golfer and DIY enthusiast.