Over-Planning = Under-Doing

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Are you making it up as you go? I hope so. (Photo credit: Wallace Chuck from Pexels.)

INDIANA JONES DELIVERS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE MOVIE LINES. In a typically stressful Raiders of the Lost Ark scene, the super-archaeologist faces, yet again, a situation gone way wrong. When asked what he plans to do next, he grumbles dejectedly, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”

Jones is a great example of the power of a “ready, fire, aim” approach to getting things done. In the Raiders movies, Indy masters taking action on the fly to succeed no matter what.

I wish I could say I’m good at that. In fact, I'd like to be really, really good at that. But I’m really, really not.

Instead, I think, ponder, muse, plan, and somewhere along the way go after it. Sometimes I’m amazed that I’ve ever done anything, let alone succeeded at doing Different for so long.

I can tell you, though, that if you have a penchant for taking action, you're already ahead of the game. Just go for it!

All right. . . . You might want to plan a little, but doing is generally better than not doing.

The Best Next Step

World War II general George Patton allegedly argued that “a good plan, violently executed, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

Since few of us (thankfully) will ever face the need to execute a violent plan for the purposes General Patton did, I’d substitute “aggressively” for “violently” in the implementation phase. I encountered one particular bit of planning that was absolutely essential to a major step in my Different dream as we were getting ready to move to the country.

At the same time we were planning to relocate, I was becoming increasingly anxious to execute my other dream: To be self-employed. I knew, though, that we would need a mortgage to purchase our place in the country, and banks generally require a minimum of two years’ successful track record before loaning money to a self-employed person. By that time, the family was geared up for the change, and we didn't want to wait another two years or more to move.

I had a job that would readily qualify me for the loan we would need, so executing the moving part of the plan meant that my self-employment dream would take second place to our getting-settled-in-the-country dream. I ended up commuting more than an hour to my job for over a year after our move, but the funding went without a hitch.

How Much Planning Is Enough?

Here’s a checklist that might help:

  1. Identify the essentials for each of your priorities.

  2. Determine if there is a necessary order for executing the essentials in order to achieve the next step toward your dream.

  3. Decide what is expendable (some things can wait because they "might be nice" to do but don't really matter).

  4. Move ahead with the essentials—in order.

  5. If you’re paralyzed by planning, admit it, stop the planning phase, and move ahead.

Whenever you pull the trigger on your big plans, it will make your palms sweat a little bit. But do it anyway. That’s called “having courage.”

It can help to admit you're figuring it out as you go along. (T-shirt available soon.)

Indiana Jones led his small group to get what he—and they—wanted. His aggressive pursuit of goals encouraged followers to believe in him.

Sometimes you’ll also have people who need to follow you (a family, for example). That means they—and you!—will have to trust that some of what you do will be figured out in the process of doing it. But don't let their expectation that you should know it all stop you. Invite them along for the ride, and enjoy discovering the plan together.


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