My husband has a saying. Actually he has lots of sayings, not all of which I agree with, but this one is particularly powerful and I like it a lot. It’s ‘Stick to the Plan’.
What does ‘Stick to the Plan’ mean? Exactly what it says. Once you commit to a course of action, then see that action through. Don’t change your mind halfway. Don’t stop because it gets hard. Don’t stop because of fear, or lack of motivation or interest. Keep Going.
Of course, you do need to review your plan every so often. A faulty plan needs ditching. But for most of us, we’re far more likely to stop following our plan too early than to stick with it for too long.
If we all stuck to the plan, we’d actually keep our New Year’s Resolutions! We’d reach goals! Meetings might actually finish on time! It’d be a world topsy-turvy, but in a good way.
The phrase works for all the big picture planning you do that gets chucked when you lose motivation or experience setbacks. But it has other great applications too.
For me, this saying tends to get hauled out in moments of indecision. These happen all the time to me with little things. I’m pretty good on the big decisions, because that’s part of my work and what I teach people – I need to be able to follow through on things like following a training program, or working towards my business goals.
What gets me is the little decisions. Such as…
Planning to go camping, it starts pouring rain. Turns out rain is predicted for the next few days. Go or not?
Meant to be going out for dinner and the babysitter cancels. Take the kids with you or just stay home?
Invite all your friends over for a dinner party and then more than half the people cancel. Go ahead or can it?
‘Stick to the Plan’ tells you what to do in these situations. In the above examples, that’s: go camping, go out to dinner (bring kids), have the dinner party.
Why Stick to the Plan?
Apart from the obvious benefits of reaching goals you set for yourself instead of getting side-tracked, it also has this particularly awesome effect:
It’s an easy way to move past indecision
As a species, we humans are a remarkably adaptable bunch. There are examples all through history of people adapting to some pretty horrible circumstances. What brings us unstuck is actually uncertainty. When you don’t know what an outcome will be, or what decision you’ll make, your brain goes into overdrive. It makes your stress hormones soar and activates its problem solving mode: where all you do is think about the problem, trying to find the best solution. If one isn’t obvious, this state can go on for days, weeks, months, years. It can lead to anxiety (avoiding situations because you don’t know the outcome, but are afraid of the worst), depression (giving up because it seems there’s no clear, neat or right solution to the problem you’re facing) and stress (where you feel you can’t make the decisions you’re being asked to make and become completely overwhelmed). Stick to The Plan means you avoid these states. You get on with the work of adapting, and leave the stress hormones behind.
Stick to the plan is captured by a variety of coaching and psychological methods. For example:
It’ll help you reach your goals
A technique that’s particularly effective to help you reach your goals is to review your goals on at least a weekly (and preferably daily) basis. Why? To make sure you Stick to The Plan. Also, sticking to the plan means you do the work, which is the part you can control with regards to whether or not you meet your goals.
It helps you to conquer fears
One of my most successful techniques for helping clients to face their fears includes detailed goal setting as well as identifying what will show up to try and stop you reaching your goal. Identifying the nasties in advance (this is more about your uncomfortable thoughts and feelings than anything else) is a technique proven to help you to Stick to The Plan and as a result, you move past your fears.
It’s how you live a valuable life
When you make a plan, you tend to do so with the best intentions in mind. You want to connect with friends, or your partner, or to achieve, or to be creative. If you change your mind because the circumstances change, then you’ll be losing an opportunity to live out those good intentions (values). And as our values are the things in life that help us to feel either satisfied or energised, it makes sense to stick to decisions when doing so means we bring ourselves more of these feelings.
It’s how you keep a sense of personal power and self-confidence
Related to this last point is not letting circumstances push you around in general. If you decide you want something, or want a certain course of action, then back yourself! Don’t let the world tell you you can’t just because of weather, or other people’s reactions. If you value socialising, then socialise, even if only one person wants to help you with that. Connect with nature, even if nature decides to provide rain rather than sunshine! Sticking to the plan will help to raise your self-confidence as you realise you can cope with less than ideal circumstances.
How do I make a good plan to begin with?
This is a very good question. It’s no use making a plan if the plan isn’t in your best interests or is made without considering the alternatives. How to make the right decision in the first place will be covered in next week’s blog post.
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Spoiler alert: One of the best guides you can use to help you make the right plan is to ensure your plan fits with what you value in life. So if you haven’t worked out what your values are yet, get my free guide on how to find them here: http://www.lanahallpsychology.com/subscribe.html
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.