A Post On Planning

July 28, 2017 § 1 Comment


“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

This saying is adapted from a line in a poem entitled: “To a Mouse,” written in 1785 by Robert Burns. It is said that Burns was ploughing his fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, leaving the mouse without adequate shelter to survive the winter.

It’s meaning – it doesn’t matter how carefully something is planned, there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong with it.

Over the last several months, I have been stuck in planning paralysis. Everything I looked at, I would envision down the last detail, spending days, if not weeks, coming up with action plans and detailed descriptions and dreams for everything from wall decor ideas for my home to events I thought would be fun to full-blown business and marketing plans.

I kept coming back to wanting an instruction manual as to how I was going to proceed in the coming months, my blueprints to success. The problem was, as much as I was spending time in the dreaming and “planning” of what I wanted, I wasn’t executing on any of it. Six month later, I had moved a couple of rocks, but for the most part I was in exactly the same place as before… minus a few more dollars.

My coach said to me:

“Wendy, you’re such a prairie girl when it comes to your dreams. It’s like you can see the details for miles. Come spent some time in the twists and turns of the mountains and you can’t see around the next bend until you get there.”

I’ve since stopped “planning”. That is, I’ve stopped writing down action steps I’m probably not going to take.

There are some people for which having their instructions written down before they begin their journey works very well for them. They’ve studied their maps, made their routes and know their milestones and points of interest.

What I’ve learned is that I’m not one of those people. But I have also had to learn how to harness my dreaming and scheming and move between the imaginary and the reality of what I’m trying to build.

When I think about how I approached my 18 months of travels, I knew the big broad picture – I was going on an adventure – but I filled in the details as I went. I booked flights a couple of months in advance for when I wanted to switch continents, I booked my accommodations a few days out from my arrival and I decided what to do with my day to day often the day of. The best part – I liked it like that and I still travel that way. Ebbing and flowing in a general direction while I twist and wind my way through interesting stopovers.

Could there be a clearly instruction manual for me on how to proceed than that?

In my experience, my best laid plans often do go awry – or more like they don’t go at all.

What about you? What have you found is your preferred approach to life and planning (or not)?


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§ One Response to A Post On Planning

  • Erin Stashko says:

    I like this quote, Wendy: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Initially I related the quote to ‘Murphy’s Law’ – Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I quickly realized though, that there is a nuance of difference between the quotes, that being, there is a chance for hope and optimism in the quote by Robert Burns.

    Planning paralysis is an issue for anyone and is a complete hinderance for those who succumb to it. (I understand and at times feel ‘frozen in indecision and/or fear.) As you mentioned, Wendy, you were planning but not executing your plans.

    This reminds me of when I was pregnant with my first son, 21 years ago. I planned (and planned), wrote notes and outlined all sorts of details about the pregnancy and birth. It was fascinating, and I was absorbed in this magical world of hopes and dreams.

    Upon giving birth and bringing our son home, I was hit with the sudden realization I had scarcely thought ahead as to the daily ins and outs of taking care of him and I was very nervous. I mean like, “Thunderbolt and lightning, Very, very frightening me” by Freddy Mercury (Queen), kind of scared! I had the right baby supplies and equipment but felt largely unprepared and was overwhelmed.

    Like you, Wendy, at that time in my life, planning and jotting down notes, or creating a big picture for such a tiny little baby could not have helped get me going. What got me going was his cries for nurturing and his cries for help, which made it so easy to jump up and assist. I did without thinking, really; just followed my heart, much the same way you did in your cherished travels.

    You said that in your experience, your “best laid plans often go awry – or more like they don’t go at all.” When you were in a Nike ‘Just Do It’ mode, or in your own words, “Ebbing and flowing in a general direction while I twist and wind my way through interesting stopovers”, it looks like that’s when you found the perfect balanced blend for your goals and aspirations.Your reflections are inspirational.

    You gave me further insight into my own temporary ‘frozen’ states of mind and body. I think I will start ebbing and flowing as well. I enjoyed reading your article, Wendy! Thanks for sharing it.

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