“Our lives are not totally random. We make commitments, we cause things to happen” (Wendy Wasserstein).
THINGS DON’T ALWAYS TURN OUT AS WE PLAN, BUT IF WE DON’T PLAN, WE DOOM OURSELVES TO NOTHING MORE THAN DRIFTING. Planning is the process by which we decide what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. If we couldn’t do that, we’d be the helpless victims of circumstance. But the truth is, we can plan. It’s a marvelous thing to consider, but we really can alter the course of events in this world. By thinking and making commitments, we can, as Wendy Wasserstein says, “cause things to happen.”
There is a sense in which planning is the hardest part of any project. The construction of a high-quality house may have its own difficulties, but conceiving the plan for that house is likely to have been harder. Once things are well planned, the planning makes their accomplishment easier. As Samuel Johnson said, “Many things difficult to design prove easy to performance.” We’d often make our work easier if we’d go to the trouble of planning it wisely and creatively.
Most of us sell ourselves short. We rarely make plans that are big enough to fire our imaginations. We’d be moved to greater effort if our plans were on a grander scale. So Daniel Hudson Burnham said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
But the fact of the matter is this: we often don’t accomplish our goals because we don’t follow through on our plans. Speaking of strategic planning in the business world, Peter Drucker said, “What makes a plan capable of producing results is the commitment of key people to work on specific tasks.” If that’s true in the world of commerce, it’s even more true in the ordinary world of everyday activities. A good theoretical plan having been made, we need to commit ourselves to the specific steps (“tasks”) that will turn the abstract plan into something concrete, something real. There’s a Persian proverb that says, “Thinking well is wise; planning well is wiser; but doing well is the wisest and best of all.” We ought to plan our work, and we’re fools if we don’t. But eventually, we’ve got to work our plan.
“Plans get you into things, but you’ve got to work your way out” (Will Rogers).