What's the Point of a Plan if You Don't Commit to It?
Updated: Oct 8
I am a planner. I use my Outlook calendar to keep my daily life in order and I keep a family calendar on the refrigerator at home so I can track all the activities and events going on for the month. I plan family vacations 6-12 months in advance, complete with an hourly itinerary and time built in for spontaneity. (Yes, I’m one of those people who gets more excited about planning a vacation than the vacation itself.) And I have a 3-5 year plan for my career and life, and I reassess that plan as each year passes. I like to know about events long in advance so I can plan for and around them.
Plans make me happy.
Wanna know how to destroy my world? Throw a wrench into my plans.
I dropped a wrench in my own plans when I was in college. It wasn't intentional, but I was the one in control. A lot of people focus on the end goal of their plans but don't have a way to get there. They get overwhelmed and give up before they even start. I had a roadmap. I just didn't stay on the path. I learned the hard way that I can develop all the amazing plans I want, but they’re basically worthless if you can’t or won’t stick to the plan.
Plans Are Easy Unless You Don’t Prepare for Them
In high school, I had a plan for getting into college. I didn’t want to attend just any college, I wanted to attend a prestigious and elite school, one that required a remarkable GPA, honors classes and high SAT scores. So I set out to take all the hard classes, and when my friends took photography or cooking classes, I signed up for extra science classes.
I did the extra-curricular stuff to be a “well-rounded” applicant. I played the piano, I was in the concert band and I taught Mandarin at the same Chinese School I’d “graduated” from.
By my junior year of high school, I knew which college I wanted to attend and which scholarship I hoped would pay for it. And if I didn’t get into that school or didn’t get that scholarship, I had a back-up plan ready to go.
1. Get admitted into a college renowned for its pre-med program. Check.
2. Earn an Air Force ROTC scholarship to pay for tuition. Check.
3. Sign up for pre-med classes. Check.
Everything Was Going According to Plan...Until It Didn't
Next, I needed to graduate from college and go to med school. Since I had an Air Force ROTC scholarship, I was going to be a doctor in the Air Force. Seemed straightforward enough and on the off chance med school didn’t work out for me, well, at least I’d commission as an officer in the Air Force, doing whatever it is that officers do.
But for all the planning I did, I found myself woefully unprepared for the reality of executing those plans. Turns out, I severely underestimated how much work it would take to see those plans come to fruition.
In my freshman year of college, I learned the hard way that taking pre-med classes didn’t equate to passing the classes. And strangely enough, I was required to pass my classes in order to keep my Air Force scholarship. Even the back-up plan wasn’t looking too good at this point. This was really stressing me out.
I was one of those kids who breezed through high school without studying at all and managed to get good grades. I did nothing to prep for the SAT and ACT and consistently scored high above the 90th percentile. Why would college be any different?
Oh let me list the ways:
No one took attendance at the class lectures
Office hours with the professor were optional
Tutoring sessions were optional
Homework was optional
This sounded awesome!
I Failed to Plan for This
There were many days I excused myself from going to class, simply because I wanted to sleep in or decided it was too cold to walk to class. I lied and told myself I’d go to a later session.
This was in the days before virtual learning was a thing, although the larger lectures did get recorded and I could check out a VHS tape at the library to watch it if I desired. Usually I didn’t. I mean, if it was too cold to go to class, it was definitely too cold to go to the library. I figured I was smart enough to do well on the exams and not worry about it.
Sometimes I just want to punch my college self in the face.
My classmates spent hours studying and preparing for Biology and Chemistry exams while I sat around reading the latest legal thriller or going to the cineplex to catch the latest blockbuster. And now, those classmates have M.D. behind their names, while I do not.
If Only I Had Planned to Have Better Habits
Even though I had researched the classes I needed to take, I didn’t have the discipline or good habits to earn the grades required. But even more concerning was the way I put my scholarship and future at risk.
I had a plan for an end goal, but I failed to plan for the way to achieve that end goal. I should have established and executed sub-goals to get to my desired end-state. James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, “It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”
I was clearly uncommitted.
If I had been more committed, I would have stayed on the path laid out on my roadmap and:
Attended all the lectures
Accomplished all the assigned problem sets
Attended the optional office hours where the professor answered questions in a small group setting
Taken advantage of the free tutoring that was offered
Studied with my friends and classmates
There's a roadmap for everything you want to achieve. You just have to map it out and stay on track.
Let's say as a leader, you have a vision of what you're trying to achieve. Perhaps you want to create an environment where everyone feels and knows they are a valued member of the team. Or maybe you want to be an approachable leader to whom who everyone is comfortable presenting ideas. These are all goals that won't happen overnight.
You must plan ahead and determine the sub-goals required to get there (mapping it out) and figure out what daily habits you need to employ and commit to them (stay on track) in order to achieve your goals. Otherwise the goal will never be realized.
Comment below: Have you ever had a goal that you didn’t have the discipline to execute? What could you have done differently for a better outcome?