If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Those were words I heard often when I worked for a man named Jim. In just about every staff meeting we’d all hear this phrase at least once. The first time I picked it apart, and came to the conclusion that it was a dumb thing to say. After that I just rolled my eyes– figuratively, at least. I mean, if I don’t plan it doesn’t really mean I’m planning to fail. And if I don’t have a plan then there is not a plan that has the capacity to fail.
Though I did not like his particular choice of words, I did know the point that Jim was making: without a plan we humans tend to do what feels good at the moment. Without direction we will meander. Without a target, we won’t keep sharpening our skills and we may not even try at all.
It seems to me that even though we may not consciously plan (and planning is certainly a deliberate process) we are all heading somewhere. And the somewhere I end up (except the grave) may be different than the somewhere that you end up. But both of us will get where we are headed by making choices– big choices, small choices, seemingly unimportant choices. What gets us from Point A to Point B, even when it is not a planned route, are the choices we make along the way. And I guess sometimes they don’t even seem like choices at all– maybe more like a default setting…. or a mindless habit….
As sure as Route 1 will take me from Perry Hall to Bel Air if I just keep following the road leading north, if I continue making the same choices I have always made I will end up somewhere- and I need to think about that. If I don’t, I will likely just look around, dazed, wondering how I got there. The main thing I should ask myself is if I will be pleased or satisfied with my destination.
Where am I heading with regards to my health, or my relationships, or my career? A steady diet of carbs and soda will inevitably get me to the destination “Diabetes” or at least “Obesity.” Daily choices to be selfish or inattentive will sooner or later take me to a place called “Alone” or “Divorce” or “Regret.”
I’ve seen it in the lives of countless friends and family members– isn’t it easy to see the whole process in others’ journeys and not our own? Or am I foolish enough to believe that I can beat the odds?
It can be a defining moment when we realize that we are on a path that we never intended to follow. That the sum of our decisions has brought us to this place. That the next choice we make can be a course correction– to take an exit, to make a U-turn.
I don’t think anyone plans to fail. But many, many of us fail to plan. I want my life to be characterized by thoughtful, intentional decisions and acts. Yes, there is a time and place for spontaneity– I’m glad for the freshness and excitement it adds to life. But a good plan and adherence to it will take me to the “places” I really want to go and there will be satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment found in staying the course and having fewer regrets.
Enjoy the summer!