24 Sep Having a “Plan B” Isn’t Enough: Four strategies to achieve long-term success
“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
-Richard C. Cushing, author, “Mission of the Teacher”
While in college working on my master’s degree, my mentor said to me, “James, it’s never enough in life to have a ‘Plan B’.” If you’re going to stay ahead of the curve, you better at least have a ‘Plan C’ too.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant then, but I do now. It all comes back to the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”
What happens when you don’t have at least a ‘Plan B’? Have you ever lost the information stored on your computer hard drive because you had no backup system?
Have you ever had your ‘big plan’ go down in flames, leaving you feeling devastated with what idea to do next?
I have coached many clients who made this mistake in business, as well as in their personally lives.
If this has happened to you, I suggest that you consider the importance of learning to ‘imagine’ multiple possible futures. After all, that’s what your forebrain, your conscious mind, is designed to achieve: vision an ideal future.
Imagine yourself coming to a three-way intersection where each turnoff is clearly marked with a large neon sign brightly proclaiming three intriguing destinations, accompanied by the distance it will take you to get there. Your challenge is that you want to visit all of them.
What do you do?
You might pull over to the side, kick your creativity in gear, and imagine what the end- result for each of your three possible choices would look and feel like as you contemplated the journey.
Finally, you arrive at a decision – you now have a signpost for the first destination. But wait! You have, just in case, visualized your second and third choices. Now you have a backup for your backup.
What have you done? You’ve accomplished far more than simply making a single choice. You have successfully imagined multiple possible futures and, by doing so, given yourself a perceptual control of your future.
You have, unknowingly created a sense of control and therefore – self-confidence. Plus, in a very short period, you have given yourself a general idea of how to get there.
Whether you realize it or not, you have also prepared yourself for the worst-case scenario of failing to reach your first destination. You have two alternative plans – just in case. Let’s call these two additional imaginations: ‘redundancies.’
That’s exactly why astronauts are put through such rigorous training. They must be prepared for any eventuality by having a very large number of backup plans – just in case. Their lives depend on it, as does both your success and peace of mind.
Portfolio managers diversify. Successful executives always look at worst case scenarios and prepare for that eventuality. Hospitals have back-up generators – just in case. Skydivers carry an extra parachute – just in case.
Here’s a personal example of which my assistant recently made me aware. She said, “I’ve never met anyone who was so flexible. When you hit a barrier, you just choose another direction.”
My mentor made me think long and hard about having more than one backup plan. I was trained as an actor but – just in case – I learned as much as I could about technical theater. I also decided to study psychology, learn hypnosis, start a private practice and write, but – just in case – I decided to develop and refine a one-man show.
In order to have a wider palate to choose from, I also created a workshop for public consumption and then decided to move in the direction of business speaking. Making these decisions helped me grow and learn, as well as challenging me to keep each possible future ‘tuned up’ and ready to use – just in case.
“Few people have any next,
they live from hand to mouth without a plan,
and are always at the end of the line.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Poet
Given the uncertainly of our world today, it might serve you to take the time to develop a ‘Plan C,’ a ‘Plan D’ and…
Here are four strategies to coach you to that end:
1) List your top three goals or plans: mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially.
2) Imagine each failing and ask yourself, “What backup plan can I make – just in case my original plan doesn’t work out?” That’s not negative thinking. That’s smart thinking.
3) Visualize the ideal end-result of each backup plan.
4) Then, work backwards and determine the steps you would need to take should you need to rely on ‘Plan B’ or – ‘Plan C.’
Here’s another side benefit to imagining multiple futures. Every time you stretch your imagination, you increase the possibility for your success. You might take Benjamin Franklin’s saying to heart: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
James Mapes is a speaker, bet-selling author, award-winning performance and a peak performance coach.
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