Another acquaintance of mine once again tried to start a new life and seize the world. The new life contained an organizer, a couple small volumes of the series “How to achieve anything without getting up from the couch,” a clear, detailed plan for five years ahead, and a firm, hard-bitten confidence that this time it’s gonna work. In confidence, in motivation, he assured, having tasted the fruits of theoretical thought, there is the rub. A month later, however, it became obvious that the old life was in no way different from the new. On the fourth day his good intentions vanished somewhere, in the second week the organizer got lost. Since then, my friend remains confident that any plan, motivation, achieving goals is a nice, written for the gullible, tall tale, utter rubbish. Only one thing bothers – a monkey in the well-known fable was saying something similar about the glasses.
In fact, does planning work or not?
Planning is good because it brings peace to the soul. If you keep in your mind a mass of unfixed items, the full picture will never fit together. In addition, this mass takes something else’s place, in the sense that while it is occupied, no update occurs. That’s why, it is very useful to take a piece of paper, write down all that you have accumulated in your head and clear the operative memory. This is written, by the way, by Barbara Sher in her book “Refuse To Choose” (2006):
If you think you have a million plans, and you can’t cover them all – then write them down and count. Sure, there is not a million, but some quite manageable amount. It’s just a chaos of unfixed thoughts that creates a picture, in which you can’t embrace the boundless. So, initially it looks like planning is good. But why do many people stop right there?
Reason One: planning is so good, that it brings us a deep moral satisfaction. In general, we all, one way or another, seek to ensure that it feels cool inside. Planning is a fast and easy way to get this “cool”. You’ve spent a few hours, got tired, and you are feeling that you’ve done a great job. A new life begins, it’s clearly seen. You seem like acting. Although not really acting. You haven’t moved a single step towards the desired goal. But the sweet hypnosis of your perfectly made up Plan convinces that you are darting to the goal at full speed. The sweet hypnosis doesn’t last long. At some point, the dose ends, and a confusion comes along – how is it possible, we haven’t reached the goal yet? Is that true, we are not there? Oh, no!… And the Perfect Plan replenishes the collection of Might-have-been Perfect Plans. And it doesn’t matter now, whether it was chimerical or quite realistic.
Reason Two: futility. You wrote everything right, but it has nothing to do with your reality. As there was no time for the gym, so there’s still none. As there was no desire to make efforts, so it has not appeared yet. This is the version of the first reason, only the hangover comes faster. The plan becomes a burden, and since we don’t go for the “burden”, but for the “cool” – it dies by itself. And now you are wondering what has happened to the plan and where it is. It was written so damn well.
Reason Three: decomposition.
This point is considered the most useful in planning, but it is, in fact, a hidden killer. What is decomposition? We take a large task and split it into smaller pieces. The latter – into even smaller. And further, until you have a list of simple and clear steps. Some advise to go from the beginning to the end. Others, on the contrary – from the end to the beginning. No one suggests writing an elective decompositions with complex units “if – then”, because it’s clear that you will bury yourself dead and never finish your plan. And this is the main stumbling-block. Admit it, if the goal was so plain that you can put down all its sub-items on a paper at a run, then, in general, it’s not a plan, but a check-list, just go and do it. In severe cases, when the concept of your goal is very vague, you have no idea of what it will be made of. What will you write? From whole cloth? From your head? The more broad-brush is your understanding, the more harmful must be decomposition. There’s still a trap: you do start appreciating the value of the invested time. You tried hard, beavered away, and wrote a grand detailed plan. And then, at the second point it all went wrong. If your crafty plan little expected variability and Plan B on each sub, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find the moral strength to do the same work all over again under the new circumstances. “Everything went wrong,” – you think and die down to hell. Talking of the “die down”…
Reason Four: motivation. Planning euphoria creates even more motivation. And it’s a subliminal reinforcement to another postulate: “In order to do something, we need motivation. Without motivation you’ll get nowhere at all”. And now, instead of doing something, you are looking for motivation. Planning and search for motivation are the two things you can do forever, it brings a deep moral satisfaction with a zero or almost zero result. Both of them are anesthesia, under which a person makes his way to the goal. When they are absent, the person starts looking for anesthesia. And it doesn’t even occur to him that he can do without any anesthesia. And that normally, there isn’t any anesthesia in nature. There is another thing, similar to the motivation, when you “caught the wave” and it carries you forward, but it is the destiny of those who swam out far enough by themselves.
If you can’t swim far out by yourself, here are in general terms, a few considerations on “Safety technique” for the handling of the tool by the name of “planning”:
1. Plan quickly, plan roughly. To hell with the multi-volume scribbles, to hell with solid plans, stop producing waste-paper. Reduce the importance of planning in your own eyes, increase the importance of the task. The instrument’s place is on the shelf with instruments – there is no reason to give it pride of place.
2. You set sights on the impossible? La Rochefoucauld used to say: “Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible”.
3. You have vaguest idea about the way to achieve your goal? Don’t wait for a lucid moment, or you’ll grow old ahead of time. Sketch landmarks, which you know for sure. And separately, think what you can do right now. There is sure something simple and clear that you can make in the foreseeable future. Just keep in mind that your plan includes a thorough amount of uncertainty. Append the next steps when they are clear. Ultimately, Columbus discovered America thinking he was heading to India.
4. There is a lack of motivation? To hell with motivation. None of the wonderful and “motivated” moods lasts 24/7. You’re not gonna give up every time the mood wavers? Look at the points of your plan critically: do you really need a special atmosphere, special weather, special position of the stars in the sky? If not, don’t expect them. Stock up on stubbornness and go through the points right now.
5. One head is good, but two is better! Don’t stew in your own juice, if your willpower is not enough. The goal set publicly on such a service as SmartProgress, does not only discipline you the report on it, among users there are certainly those who faced similar problems, they may give a cue if you get a “tunnel vision”, and give you an invigorating kick if you’re stuck. You can even put money on it that your goal will be achieved, if a “bet” motivates you.
Go for it! Nothing is impossible, and you, too, will sure seize the world. Just promise to handle it with care.