Saying Vs. Doing: Following Through On Best Laid Plans

During the school year, I live in an apartment with three friends. We’re all acting majors and we all possess distinctly different personalities. It’s an incredibly unique space that we share and I’ve affectionately named it The Citadel (a name that has not yet caught on with my roommates). The Citadel is a lively little home- ideas bouncing around as though we were trying to hit one another. Each of us enjoy our own personal projects- things we’d like to achieve or come to fruition. In my experience, only a fraction of the ideas thrown around actually take root. The rest splatter across the walls and are lost to memories or journal pages for another time.

Generally speaking, that’s entirely normal. There are plenty of ideas out there that aren’t suited for reality, not in that given moment anyways. However, there are other ideas and goals that don’t make it off the landing strip for other reasons entirely. They usually begin with something like let’s make this happen or wouldn’t it be great if… and they usually remain there, in that boneyard of theoretical language. The theoretical boneyard isn’t limited to grand ambitions either, many smaller visions are laid there to rest as well. I’m finally going to write my bestselling novel and I’m going to work out a few times a week share the same tomb.

I began thinking on why it can be difficult to follow through on even the best laid plans. Easier said than done resonates for a reason but I’m not content with letting that be the end of the discussion. I don’t have any definite answers, no silver bullet for the beast of lost opportunity, nobody does. Still, I wanted to share my playbook for following through. (This post isn’t necessarily about procrastination or productivity, but if you’d like to read more about that you can check out one of my previous posts on the topic, here.)

So why do even the best laid plans fall apart? There are a few reasons, one of which being momentum. When you come up with a fantastic idea or set an inspiring goal, it is riddled with excitement. New prospects are, by their very nature, exciting. They’re the embodiment of opportunity and opportunity is betterment. It’s easy to feel excited about new opportunities while they’re in the theoretical space because, well, thinking up change doesn’t require all that much effort. The moment effort is involved, when push-back rears its ugly head, that motivation that supported your industriousness retreats. This tends to be where most campaigns of improvement die, at this first tier. In order to succeed or follow through, an idea must face the three tier gauntlet.

Tier 1: Conceptualize

You’ve got your idea. You’re motivated and unstoppable.

Tier 2: Implement

You let that idea tentatively dip a toe in the water. That water is cold- which is why it can be enticing to retreat back to tier 1.

Tier 3: Achieve

You’ve established a rhythm and are reaping the benefits of your discipline, now all you have to do is keep it up.

Like I said, most ideas don’t survive the second tier. Even the faint notion of embarking on something you’re excited about can be daunting- and for good reason. The moment a goal touches tier 2, it can fail. Failure is hard, demoralizing, scary. In order to avoid that kind of heartache and wasted effort, people like to live in tier 1, myself included. This is the false promise of the first tier. It allows you to live in the excitement of concept without the risk of failure. What it doesn’t tell you is that, while the first tier can be exciting, it’s hollow. There is no opportunity to be found in conceptualizing if not followed through on. You may not fail, sure, but you’ll never succeed.

While the risk of failure is both consciously and unconsciously taxing, it is worth the bargain of change. I’ve always disliked the devil I know beats the devil I don’t argument because it isn’t true. It assumes that there, will in fact, be a devil ahead. There might be, but there might not. Resigning yourself to the devil you know won’t change anything. Exploring the unexplored, at the very least, presents an opportunity for betterment.

It should also be said that, while not particularly fun, failure isn’t a bad thing. Failure is a stepping stone toward success. Every time you fail, celebrate a bit. Nobody is expecting you to get it right on the first try, nobody but yourself, anyways. We learn through failure. When we fall short, we now know what doesn’t work, at the very least. This allows us to reorient ourselves and try again with a greater chance of success. To fear failure is to fear learning.

Implementing plans takes effort, it isn’t easy. It won’t always be so exciting either. The best way to push through is to maintain a rhythm. Set a detailed plan in place and recognize your own ability to follow through. Human-beings are tougher than we give ourselves credit for. It’ll pay off in the end, either directly or indirectly- so go out there the try it.

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