Is Preparation Really The Key?
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln
When starting out on any new venture, many have preached that being prepared is an absolute necessity. Even Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most people make some kind of plan before they launch into action. But what if we told you that too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing, and that preparedness isn’t everything?
The intention here isn’t to confuse you (though it may seem that way at first!) Indeed, preparation is important for success – but a lot can happen between preparation and getting started. Even with the most thorough planning, there are some things you simply can’t predict or prepare for. Things like:
As Mike Tyson infamously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth!” Nothing is completely within your power to achieve, and unfortunately, this means your plan could blow up in your face when you least expect it.
Try as we might, being prepared cannot guarantee our success. There’s something to be said for preparing to fail; you need to accept that your first, third, or even tenth attempt could result in failure, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t prepare enough.
Over-Analysis and Over-Planning
Attempting to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ can delay your progress. It can cause a lack of action, slow starts, paralysis, fear, and anxiety. If you’re anything like myself, a fear of failure may cause you to consider every possible angle before proceeding.
The downside to this is that you will likely foresee many potential problems which cause you to doubt. You will find yourself anxious and less excited about getting started, and with that, you will lose much of the vigor you initially had.
The preparation phase is important, but it can be overdone. So how do we navigate this somewhat paradoxical advice?
Of course, you should always prepare to a certain extent – just not to your own detriment. It is up to you to determine for yourself what over-analysis means for you and your business. Try not to let preparedness get in the way as you take a leap of faith and step out of your comfort zone.
Contingency plans are an example of this; having them is a wise thing to do, but creating contingency plans for your contingency plans is probably going overboard.
Problems With Over-Planning
Like anything we overindulge in, over-planning comes with a number of problems. Rather than propelling you forward in your endeavors, it can stagnate your progress, and will often lead to issues such as:
You May Become Inflexible
Just as ballerinas must be flexible to create their beautifully choreographed dances, you too must practice flexibility in order to succeed.
If you set your mind on certain plans and do not allow room for the unexpected, challenges and setbacks that arise may throw you off your course. You may find yourself unable to redirect to a new route if need be; your mind will become stuck on the timeline you have worked towards, rendering you incapable of forging ahead.
Make plans, certainly – but don’t set them in stone straight away.
It’s Hard to Anticipate Your Pain Points From The Outset
Irrespective of the time you spend planning before getting started, it’s impossible to know the bottlenecks until you stop planning and start acting. Over-planning will simply prevent you from accepting the unexpected.
If you are prone to over-planning your projects or ventures, you may be familiar with one or more of the following:
- You are afraid of imperfection.
- You have a lot of abandoned projects.
- You bother about the littlest details.
- You are afraid of change.
- You have little to nothing to show for all the extensive planning you have done.
If you identify with one, some, or all of the above, know that this is completely normal. There are plenty of steps you can take to reframe your thinking, starting with these:
Acknowledge the Act
The first step to changing your habits for the better is to realize and accept your flawed thinking. In other words, acknowledge that you are over-planning.
You can do this by taking note of what activities you spend the bulk of your time on. Doing so will allow you to allocate your time more effectively, as you will be able to see what activities to cut down on and which to dedicate more time to.
It is also a helpful exercise to identify your reasons for over-planning, whether that be fear of failure, resistance to change, or something else.
Filter The Information That Gets In
It’s smart to keep informed about the industry you are getting into – after all, knowledge is a pillar of success. As with all things, however, consuming too much information can be a bad thing. It can overwhelm you and cause you to doubt yourself. Over time, your voice may be drowned out by the many pieces of information you have floating in your head.
When you find yourself unable to start because you are scared of accidentally deviating from all you have learned, that is your sign to stop researching and start working. Put a limit on the amount of time you can spend planning; then once that window is up, it’s go-time!
Set Deadlines and Launch Dates For Your Projects
Many of our best laid-plans end up stagnating, sitting in the ‘work in progress’ pile for far too long. One way to avoid the slow death of your project is to set a launch date for it. As the launch date approaches, you will find yourself putting the finishing touches on whatever plans you have underway.
If you are prone to shifting deadlines, you can also enlist the help of accountability measures. For example, if you already have a business and you are in the process of launching a new feature or service, you could set a launch date and announce it to your existing clients. By making things public, you will have no choice but to work towards your goal.
Break Bigger Tasks into Smaller Tasks
Breaking your project into smaller, more actionable tasks will help to encourage you forward. This way, you can have small milestones to check off as you progress toward the launch of your project. Each little victory will help to motivate you and push you onward. Breaking things down will also make the project feel a little less overwhelming.
Learn to Accept Imperfection
If you have set a public deadline for your project, there’s still no guarantee it will be perfect – even the night before launch. The only way to press on with your project, and any projects to come, is to make peace with imperfection.
When you challenge yourself to stop planning and start acting, you will find yourself in a much better position to adapt to unexpected situations and changes. Planning is important, but it should never get in the way of executing your ideas. Even as your plan unfolds, there will always be more to do, more changes to make, and more unexpected hiccups to adapt to.
At the end of the day, it is God we have to depend on. He’s the one in charge – in fact, He is the only one who can predict every challenge and possible outcome. This does not exempt us from being prepared, however; we are still tasked with making decisions and taking action. Knowing that God is in control serves as an element of faith and a source of courage. This we can see in the Bible, in which it tells us that “You can prepare a horse for the day of battle. But the power to win comes from the Lord” – Proverbs 21:31.
The truth is, we will never have all the answers. We should rely on God rather than acting solely on our own wisdom. Even Solomon said so in Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Our prayer and hope for you today is that you make the necessary preparations for the business or project you want to get started on, then take the leap of faith and go for it. There’s nothing stopping you from reaching your full potential today – only you stand between yourself and the realization of your goals. Trust in God to be with you as you fulfill each task. You can do it!