“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Alan Lakein or Winston Churchill… I’m not sure and the research isn’t unanimous, so I’ll credit them both!
Either way, they’re on to something huge here. I mean HUGE!
Even if you’re not much of a planner and you prefer to “fly by the seat of your pants” like Julia Roberts à la Pretty Woman, odds are you’ve heard this quote and have likely given it some thought.
The quote says it perfectly and succinctly so I won’t expand on the genius of it. Nor will I contest a single word of it – each one serves its purpose very well!
Oddly enough though, I’m not here to talk about having a plan per se… but rather having a plan to fail.
Did I lose you?
See, the quote says if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Which is true – we need a plan to get healthy or else we’re just grasping at straws.
But we also need to plan for fails… or put another way, we have to have a plan for when we fall off the wagon.
We’re all human and that means we’re going to fall off the wagon. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it! WE ARE GOING TO FALL OFF THE WAGON.
No matter what that wagon is – getting thirty minutes in every day; choosing healthier meals; meditating daily, drinking more water… whatever the thing is that we’re on the wagon for, we will fall off at some point.
And to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. Humans are seldom 100% at anything we do, so why would our efforts to getting healthy be any different?
Plan to Fall Off
What separates the people who succeed in getting healthy versus the people who don’t (or haven’t yet) is that they have a plan in place for WHEN they fall off the wagon.
Most of us have this feature in our brain that we plan things out, whether in depth or with minimal details. Whether we’re giving it much thought or not, we do trial runs in our brains, we play out conversations, and we envision what’s going to happen next.
But for some reason, we have this notion that if we envision ourselves falling off the wagon, it’s the same as predicting our failure. Like jinxing ourselves before we’ve even given it a chance.
Boy, have we got it all wrong!
Just because we have a back up plan doesn’t mean we’re doomed to fail! No, no, no!
Having the back up plan is precisely how we plan to get past our temporary lapse in judgement (aka our tumble off the wagon).
See, when we have a back up plan, or several back up plans, our brain gets to rehearse those moments because we’ve thought about them. So when you binge on cookies or skip a workout one day, all is not lost! Your brain knows exactly how to get back on the wagon because it’s already played out in your brain before.
Having a plan to fail means that instead of getting to that point where you’ve fallen off and then begin spiraling out of control (cuz we’ve all been there, right?), your brain rolls up its sleeves, steps in and says, “I got this.”
The back up plan (and having rehearsed this back up plan) is damage control put into place by our higher level brains to initiate immediately after our monkey brains manage to gain control.
So predicting that we will, in fact, fail at some point doesn’t mean we’re destined for failure. Quite the opposite in that it means we’re more likely to bounce back after our temporary failure because we’ve got a plan in place.
Think of the back up plan like a rope from the wagon that you manage to hold on to as you’re falling off. Provided you’ve planned for it (say, by tying the rope around your waist), you can pull yourself right back up onto the wagon with minimal damage done.
Plus, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a back up plan in place without an original plan, so instituting a back up plan automatically means you’ll be planning out your path to healthy – it’s a win-win-win!
And remember, you only have to be on the wagon 51% of the time to be making progress toward your version of healthy. It might mean your trajectory is a little slower than if you were on it 75% of the time, but progress is progress!
So don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to have a plan for when you fail… because you will. We all will. Because we’re human.