Plan B is Not Negative Thinking

“If you plan for success, you’ll succeed, if you plan for failure, you will fail.” I’m a big believer in thinking positively, planning for success, and not feeding the inner critic.

I also believe that having a Plan B–what to do in the worst-case scenario–is an excellent idea. Those thoughts, which seem to be opposite, can be held at the same time quite successfully.

Aren’t they opposites? And if I have a Plan B, am I not planning for failure? I used to think that, too, until I had a really clear understanding of planning.

Plan B is a way of looking ahead, of seeing where the obstacles might be. This is exactly what I do when I’m on the motorcycle–I keep an eye out for an escape route. Can I stop if that car cuts in front of me? What will I do if that one brakes or swerves? It’s a moment-to-moment adjustment that has saved my life more than once. It’s not negative thinking. It’s planning a way through and then out.

mapBy thinking ahead, I am solving problems to avoid them. I am also making myself aware that I can face problems. And because I believe in learning by making mistakes, even by failing, planning the next step becomes a positive action. Studying what went wrong and figuring out how to fix it increases not only knowledge, but problem-solving skills.

And once I have a Plan B, I can turn toward the goal. Looking ahead to the goal is the best way to make steps to get there. If you constantly have to fight back the fear and refuse to face it, you aren’t being positive, you are wasting time chasing fear. Plan B is the realization that you are past the fear block, and are moving ahead to the goal.

The poet W.H. Auden wrote:

“The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.”

Fear prevents you from leaping. And not leaping prevents you from the full adventure that is your life. Planning and training for leaps keeps you prepared for whatever shows up.

-Quinn McDonald is re-thinking some of the tropes she’s lived with for a long time. It keeps her ready to leap.

Celebrating a Reached Goal

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of recognizing you’ve reached a goal and celebrating it. Wisely, some of you asked good questions about how you know you’ve reached a goal and what does celebrating look like?

Some thoughts:

1. To reach a goal you have to set a goal. To set a goal you have to write it down. To write it down you have to know exactly what you want the goal to be. Then break it into do-able steps. “Be a better daughter” is not a reachable goal because it is not well defined. What’s “better”? What are the guidelines for “better”?  Who sets those guidelines? Who decides if you are “better” than before?

Instead, you might choose “Phone my mom twice a week.” If, however, your mother hates talking on the phone, then it doesn’t meet the goal. Be specific. The more specific the better.

2. Use enough steps so each step toward the goal is something you can do in a set time period–half an hour, a day, within a week. Then put the time period after the step. It doesn’t matter if your goal has 87 steps. What matters is that you understand what each one means and that you can do them.

3. Have a reasonable idea you can reach the goal. Goals can be a stretch. But if it is an impossibility, you’ll lose the desire to reach it. That’s why it’s good to break the goal into steps. For example, if my goal were to be an Olympic Figure Skater in a year, I’d never make it. I don’t ice skate, never have. As an adult over 50, I’d have to take many hours of lessons, which my schedule doesn’t allow. Those two reasons are enough, and there are plenty more. I could however, set a goal to learn to ice skate well enough to make it around the skating rink without falling down.

4. Re-evaluate your goals over time. Make sure you are on track, evaluate why you want to reach that goal and see if it is still a reasonable goal you want. One of the valuable pieces of information you get from pursuing a goal is why you chose it and if it makes sense. Another piece of information is knowing when to abandon a goal.

5. Celebrate along the way. Once you have completed a certain number of steps, and you are closing in on your goal, and you really want to reach that goal, celebrate. A celebration can be private–imagining what reaching your goal will be like. Write it in your journal. Write down the steps you have completed and what you have learned or gained. In other words, praise yourself for your strengths. Do it in writing in your journal. Read it over when you feel your resolve dissolving. Read it out loud. Into your camera and then watch yourself. If you have a close friend ask him or her to read a congratulatory letter you wrote to yourself out loud. Buy yourself a congratulations card and mail it to yourself.

Make yourself a crown. You can make this one with the directions on this blog:

6. Celebrate in ways that match your goal and your idea of fun. Sure you can throw a party or buy a new wardrobe or take a trip to Europe. But only if it doesn’t run you into debt and make you feel bad about your decision making abilities. One person’s celebration is another person’s boredom. Set aside time to buy and read a magazine, go to the movies, meet a friend for coffee or wine. You can visit a museum or arboretum, aquarium or water park. You can go to a play, take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try, walk a labyrinth or shoot up the other group in a paint-gun battle. Choose something that fits in your budget and that sounds fun. If you get energy from other people, involve them. Particularly if you have been discussing it with them. Having people celebrate with you is both fun and stimulating.

7. Don’t rush on to the next goal until the one you met is celebrated. Rushing ahead diminishes your work and effort. Smile at yourself. Wear a paper crown you made yourself around the house. Play “We are the Champions of the World” and dance. Only after the celebration feels complete should you sit down and write what you have learned about yourself, what strength has evolved. And then you can choose another goal.

–Quinn McDonald has several small and large goals on her list. Ice skating is not among them.