Plans (usually) don’t work out but the practice of planning does.
I have no illusions about the role of planning—just because I write out my goals and plans doesn’t mean my plans will become a reality. One of the fallacies of planning is thinking your planning efforts justifies the effectiveness of your plan. Which means if you spend a lot time planning for something, this should work out. And when it doesn’t, you have failed. All your efforts amounted to nothing. You give up.
This is simply not true.
When your plan don’t work out, you make a new plan, based on what you learn didn’t worked in the previous plan—you adjust. Don’t linger on how off track you where as if that will help you get back on track. And when it comes to learning from mistakes, saying you learned from a mistake doesn’t mean anything. Learning from a mistake is all about actively putting in practices, habits or conscious effort to avoid putting yourself in the position where you made the mistake in the first place. Otherwise, as a matter of habit, you’ll repeat the mistake, continue to make the same mistakes.
I value planning for the thought exercise. It generally forces me to clarify what I really want, set clear outcomes, set deadlines and create a series of actions step I can take to move me closer towards my goals. All of this requires researching, gathering information, making educated guesses about what to do based on the information at hand, decisions on how to do it and then taking action, trusting my intuition. This is hard, hard, hard mental work. Both to digest, synthesize, getting creative about the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ and having the willpower to get started initially, then sticking to a course of action, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Planning for my goals is how I take control of my time, focus and energy, directing it to get what I want—increase my income, sharpen my skills, start a business, make new partners. Whatever. Now, does that mean I’ll certainly get what I want? No. Does it mean I’ll get what I want on the second, third forth, fifth etc. attempt? No. But it does improve my chances of succeeding in the next attempt? Possibly, if I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes and make course corrections. But learning often means admitting I was wrong, and don’t we all love to do that? And there’s a far cry between admitting you were wrong and developing the discipline and will to not repeat that mistake.
Planning is most challenging when you’re planning for the future, aiming for things you have no previous experience of, little idea what the end outcome looks like and have no idea how to get there. And you’re not special if you’re new. Thinking that you’re special and telling yourself that is very motivational but never confuse self-motivation with concrete, real world results. You will make mistakes, mistakes will cost, you’ll be emotionally beat up and there’s a chance you won’t get what you want. After such consideration, whether you decide to proceed anyway, in my opinion, truly show how important the goal is to you.
When it comes to achieving your goals, you need to have something that borderlines being obsessive. You need to have the attitude of whatever it takes, that I will do. Not a bunch of “ifs”—if only I had ___, then maybe I’ll___. This is how a loser thinks. The only exception is when it comprises your principles or character. Otherwise, whatever feat of self-exertion, discipline, effort, ‘stick-to-it-ness’ required, that you will do. You do this despite a sense of uncertainty, knowing that as a matter of probability, you might not achieve what you want but you won’t ever let self-doubt defeat initiative and in the end, you’d rather die knowing you tried, rather than saying “I should’ve” when it’s too late.
I think most people avoid planning in general because whenever a plan doesn’t turn out the way they wanted, their sense of agency and control goes awry—they’re harshly reminded that there are many factors outside of their immediate control, the world is chaotic, the world is surprisingly random, people are fallible and you don’t always get what you want, exactly the way you wanted.
A part of growing up is coming to terms with reality—through experience, accepting what you can control, accepting what you can’t and having the wisdom to know the difference. Failure sucks, mistake hurts but have a sense of proportion and remember, fitness is the speed of recovery. It’s not about getting side-tracked, that’s a given. It’s about how fast do you get back on track?
Your plan didn’t work out? Make a new plan.