Stop planning: Unorthodox advice, practical results

From the Archives

Originally published October 22, 2015

There’s a scene in Shelly Duvall’s Fairie Tale Theatre take on the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story in which Goldilocks’s father chastises his lazy daughter as she makes ridiculous excuses for not getting her chores done. He scolds, “If you would spend as much time doing as you do thinking of ways to get out of it, you’d be done it already.” I first heard that line in that film when I was a kid, and it’s stuck with me through life, work, and everything in between. Are you putting off your success under the guise of proper planning? Is your “planning” little more than a stall tactic, an excuse for your procrastination? Let’s work to reverse that, starting now.

I’m blessed to mentor and coach some of the brightest young minds of our time. On a phone consultation with one such talented individual, I repeated a message I’ve heard myself parrot many times in recent years. “I challenge you to abandon your two-plus years of planning and to go do something – anything other than more planning – to move you toward any of your significant goals.” It’s a challenge because we’re so deeply programmed to plan for life and business that we often suffer from implementation paralysis. We don’t learn how to implement even the best laid plans.

Does it sound counter-intuitive to set aside the valuable exercise of crafting a sound business plan before launching toward a goal? Probably, right? Let me ask this: If you’ve spent months or years planning something on which you haven’t acted, what have you got to lose even if you take action and fall flat on your face? Are you any worse off than not having done anything? I’ll argue that you’re better off because you now know the consequences of at least one course of action. And if you’re a creature of planning, then you’ve just refined your planning process in a way that thinking and talking about it could never do.

I’m giving you permission – here, now – to take some risks, even calculated ones, that move you away from habits and excuses that keep you from being who you want to be, doing what you want to do, and having what you want to have. I’m saying that in this moment, it’s OK not to bury yourself in a never-ending planning process that hasn’t to date brought you results and that will never bring you results if you are a creature of habit. And you are.

So break some habits. Stop planning. Stop talking. Stop thinking. Stop reminiscing. Stop worrying. Start doing. What can you do today, right now to move you toward your goals?

  • Make a phone call
    Reach into your network for someone who can help you take a valuable first step in a positive direction. Namely, call someone who can truly be a resource that helps you check a task or two off your list of things that meet an objective or achieve a goal. Ask for help. Seek counsel or guidance. Take direction.
  • Send a text or email
    Have a few connections who you think are too busy to pick up the phone and still want to help you? Send a text or short email. As with the phone call, use this opportunity to create movement on your already belabored plan or to-do list.
  • Make new connections
    Is your current network or support system all tapped out? Feel as if you have already used up your charm, wits, and good favor with your existing connections? Go make new ones. Meet new people at local meetups or job fairs. Connect online, as is today’s trend. Creep people out in public with your enthusiasm for what you do. Enroll new people in your ideas or reconnect old ones into new versions of what you’re doing. In everything you do, connect these actions to things you know you need to do to achieve your goals.
  • Answer your phone or email
    If you’ve been guilty of putting off actions in favor of extensive planning, then there’s a strong chance you’ve also ignored emails, text messages, and phone calls from people who annoy you because they’re more enthusiastic about your success than you are. Or maybe these people are pushing you and because you’re holding yourself back, hounding want to expose yourself to their energy. Please stop doing that. As part of this challenge, stop screening your calls for a few weeks and start being more vulnerable to these outside forces that only seem to sway in your favor. See for yourself how much progress you make when you reintegrate a steady flow of communication into your behaviors and actions.
  • Take a new risk
    So-called fear of failure inhibits success. It slows the creative process and hinders real progress. Delayed gratification has a similar effect. Accept for the moment that you can experience a setback, drawback, or lapse in judgment. Accept that results might not come within an hour or day or week or month of an action you take today. Then recognize that it isn’t a single act that brings success. Rather, the single act is a mere nudge. It is a series of actions that generate momentum and creates the intertia that sends you headlong into achievement of your goals. Focus on the single act in front of you, knowing that all the other acts you commit along with it will bring you desired results. Accept that in striving for a goal, the chance of success is on par with what you perceive to be the chance of failure. Success begins with taking that gamble.