The First Plan is THE Plan*
I am unable to count, or even identify, how many times I’ve made this mistake.
I’ll develop a plan in my mind. It might be a small plan like choosing what to order for dinner or to take a walk. Then something or someone will come along and offer a different choice. Without any serious deliberation, my thinking will change. A previously decided on rationale will be subordinated to a new one. Either I’ll think I’ve changed my mind, or I won’t remember that I ever thought differently in the first place.
I recently engaged in an especially consequential example of this process. After literally years of planning for an upcoming life event, Plan A, I suddenly decided to go in a completely different direction, Plan B. I proceeded toward implementation of Plan B despite some internal discomfort and many red flags. Plan B did not work out and I more-or-less reverted to Plan A, although with some residual financial pain that will remind of my error in the years to come. In hindsight I clearly compromised my beliefs and denied my lived experience in favor of a relationship process that was not in my best interests. I can’t even take credit for coming to my senses because I’m clear I would have marched down the Plan B gang plank and dropped straight into the water if the other party hadn’t broken the agreement.
How many times have I planned to exercise, eat dinner at home or go to bed at a certain time, and then some internal or external event prompts me to take a different path? Internal events might include a stress reaction that triggers the change. External events usually involve bumping up against the desires of others.
The point is not that one’s plans should never be flexible.
Last week I visited family in Chicago. Shortly after checking in to my hotel room I called a cousin and asked her to get together. She told me she was dressed and ready to go to the gym, but that she would change her clothes and come hang out with me instead. We had a wonderful visit and I’m thrilled she changed her plan for me. (Yes, I am as capable of putting relationship pressure on others as I am of giving in to it!)
What’s important is the process that goes into either keeping or changing a plan. Is this automatic, or thoughtful? Questions I can ask myself include:
Why am I changing my plan now in this circumstance? Who are the people are involved? Am I more or less likely to adjust my plans with this person or group or in this situation? What will I be up against if I stick with the first plan? What will I be giving up or gaining if I go with the second plan?
When I give up my plan to perceived or real emotional pressure I’m likely to end up resentful. Ruminating about being mistreated is a good clue that I’ve thoughtlessly and automatically changed my plan at some point. I want to try living (flexibly) by the slogan The First Plan is THE Plan and see what changes over time.
*Phrase coined by a client who, for obvious reasons, won’t be given credit here. I am gratefully using his words with his permission.