Last week a friend/client and I were talking about the upcoming road trip I’m doing, which I actually leave for on Wednesday!!
As the day gets ever closer, I’m finding it hard to balance my need to plan with holding space for things to happen spontaneously. There is so much I want to see/do, but I don’t want to create an itinerary that I feel forced to stick to and leaves me unable to say yes to whatever the universe throws my way.
In talking about finding that balance, my friend shared a quote by Dwight Eisenhower that has been stuck in my brain ever since:
“Planning is everything, and the Plan is nothing”.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE PLAN
I love how this notion challenges the idea that if you plan for something, it must go according to plan. At first it sounds sensationalist but if you think about it, nothing should ever go according to plan. A plan is our way of trying to predict the future. And unless humans have somehow gained access to that talent, that’s not something we’re able to do and therefore shouldn’t expect.
I think this quote has resonated so much because I’ve really bought into the idea that things don’t need to be done perfectly – they don’t need to go according to plan. This doesn’t mean we should be okay with crappy results. But our goal should be more to get to 80% than to strive for perfection.
What it comes down to is most people don’t want to fail. There is fear in tackling something and not succeeding, and I get that. Yet we often equate success with perfection, or needing things go “according to plan”, which leaves us no room to learn and recalibrate along the way. This fear of “failure:, which actually isn’t failure at all, keeps people from ever getting started.
FAILURE & FINANCES
In thinking about this quote, I realized that this didn’t just apply to my upcoming trip, but was really analogous to how people deal with money.
We set financial goals and create plans for how to get there, but if life deviates at all from that expectation we’re easily thrown off. Any goal that isn’t achieved 100% on time or on target is often seen as a failure.
For example, if you’re saving towards a down payment on a house by next year but an emergency comes up that forces you to push back the date by six more months, did you fail? Is the plan now worthless?
No – of course not. Life happened, and that is to be expected. Yet oftentimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that we somehow failed if we stray from our “anticipated future”.
When it comes to working towards a financial goal, no matter what it is, you need to aim for progress not perfection. Here are three approaches that help me keep perspective and make progress:
- Focus on the process– Planning is a process, while the plan is an outcome. One of them you can control, and the other you can’t. When starting Be Awesome Not Broke I worked with a coach who told me not to worry about how much money I made each month, but instead focus on how many prospect calls I was having with potential clients. This is because I could control how many conversations I was having, but ultimately couldn’t control how many said yes. Be committed to the process, not the outcome.
- Anticipate and embrace the unexpected– If we agree that no-one can predict the future, then we can agree that blindly sticking to a plan and ignoring reality is a bad idea. The process of planning is about working towards achieving a goal or desired outcome, however how you get there (aka the PLAN) will change once things go live. Therefore, anticipate that things won’t go as planned. More than that, embrace the things that don’t. It’s very possible that opportunities will come your way once you start working towards a goal, and if you blindly stick to the plan then you won’t be open to these better way of doing things.
- The goal is not the goal– Don’t set a financial goal – “I will pay down my $5k credit card debt” – and say that once you’re there you have succeeded. The work you put in progressing towards the goal, that day-to-day work…that is your success. While you may end up paying down all of your debt, it is the habits you build and the person you become along the way that is truly valuable. Even if you don’t ultimately pay off that $5k in the amount of time you wanted, you will have learned the steps towards making it happen, and can pull from those learnings again at anytime in the future.
I would love to hear from you: What have you put off, financially or otherwise, that if you allowed yourself to be less than perfect on, you could actually start?
My road trip starts soon so I might be slow to respond, but please send me your answer to the above and I promise to get back to you. I read and respond to every one.