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want to succeed? stop planning

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Hi there. Nice to see you again.

And, yes, that's right: You need to stop planning.

A few Saturdays ago, I took a self-reflective workshop in which I learned absolutely nothing new about myself – and it blew my mind.

The workshop was called Reclaim Plan A.

Now, I’m a planner: This is known. Let’s put that social date on the calendar, because, otherwise, the odds are against us, and it’s going to haunt me.

What I didn’t know was that planning can work against you. Let me clarify: Having a backup plan can work against you.

As it turns out, keeping Plan B in your back pocket hurts your odds of succeeding with Plan A.

So much for being organized, right?

The Plan A workshop brought to mind a radio interview with Will Smith, a man who – fun fact – is chock full of great mottos. He was talking about how he and Jada moved in together either after they got engaged...or maybe even after they got married? (*Will or Jada, if you’re reading this, please clarify, as this question has plagued me since I heard this interview about a decade ago. Thanks.) As Will put it, “There was no Plan B.” In other words, they had to make it work. Moving in with anyone is... a struggle.

When you know you’re committing full-force, you have to figure it out.

I bring up this interview all the time, in a wide range of conversations. I also apply it – okay, let’s be honest, I use it to help justify – my gut-sense decisions in life.

Like when I moved to Manhattan to pursue a complete 180 career trajectory, with no job or apartment to speak of. Or when I said “Yes” to the first marriage proposal of my life, after only nine weeks of dating the guy.

In both cases, I had no Plan B. I planned to find an affordable apartment in Manhattan and a job as a completely inexperienced personal trainer, and I planned to marry that man. At no point, in either situation, did I come up with a “just in case” scenario – even during the growing pains of co-inhabiting a shoebox apartment, knowing that I was in it for the long haul.

Plan A was the only plan.

As someone who feels pretty confident leaping into big decisions (small decisions are another story), I knew that this Plan A workshop would hit deep. As I suspected, nothing that came up during those two hours surprised me. I knew exactly what my Plan A was, and I could pinpoint the moment in time when I launched into Plan B: Sitting on my bed in my college dorm room and deciding to major in psychology, not art history. Plan B was more practical – more applicable to a wider range of future career paths.

But art history wasn’t even the original Plan A! That was my Plan B! Psychology was even further down the totem pole, at level C.

The original Plan A – theatre and performance and art in all of its glory? Well, I can pinpoint the moment when I dropped that plan, too: Giving up my spot in an overbooked Actor’s Voice class for an emotionally crushed drama major.

I told myself that I did it purely out of compassion, because I didn’t “need” the course as a psych major. But most of it was fear – fear of a class full of drama majors at a small liberal arts school that birthed Meryl Streep. So, I played it a little safer and went cold turkey.

Who knows if that class would have led me somewhere else. All I know is that it left a mostly dormant pin-prick feeling of “What if?” that emerges only once in awhile, but that leaves a mark.

Plan A is often the place of "What if?" that you just can't let go of.


I recently read this line: “...[O]ur personalities are only stretched by circumstance, eventually springing back to some semblance of their original shape.”

Reclaim Plan A connected me with my original shape in a space where I couldn’t slyly mold it into another one: It was just me, thinking and writing about my shape, being in my shape.

I remember meeting an occupational therapist once and asking her if she knew hands-down, that she wanted to be an occupational therapist. She replied beatlessly with a hearty, “Yes!”

"Huh," I thought, “Well, that’s much easier.”

Since college, I’ve kind of gathered and smushed together as I go: Creative arts, psychology, creative art therapy, fitness, nutrition, holistic health coaching, and, now, writing curriculum for health coaches – so essentially smushing everything together into one big ball of a career that hits all marks. Kind of.

But here's where it gets crazy: When I thought at the workshop about my aspirations as a youngster, and when I thought about my future “ideal life”, and when I thought about “Jamie at her most core self”, and when I circled back and highlighted words that sparked the greatest joy...none of them really had anything to do with wellness – which is basically what I’ve been “known for” for the past ten years. They all had to do with that darn old-school creative art in my bones.

Plan A is usually your most essential self.

Most of the fitness and nutrition professionals I know are, well, very into fitness and nutrition. Makes sense, right? And, if you ask anyone I know, they’ll probably say the same thing about me. But, really and truly – and this is a recent “aha” moment here – I consider health more of a...passion? Maybe even just a strong enough interest to make it such a part of my daily life. That's the key: It’s part of me, but it’s not the most essential me. Health is what I do, but art is who I am. Or something to that effect.

Is it strange that it took me so long to put that in so many words? To have this epiphany, ten years in?

I don't think so. So many people are with me on this, and maybe you are, too. You got on a path toward something that felt, at the time, interesting. It seemed to make sense, based on how you spent your time, or what you thought about, etc. And you might have even enjoyed it as much as I did! But, deep down, it wasn't your Plan A: It was your Plan B...or C...or D...

While having a backup plan can have its benefits, when it comes to pursuing many of the big things in life, it’s often helpful to not focus on Plan B.

If you just have a Plan A:

  1. You have to figure it out.

  2. You spend much less time wondering “What if?”

  3. You don’t eschew the essential you.

Having a Plan B is practical, but it’s also based, at least a little – if not a lot – in fear. What if I don’t succeed? What if Plan A doesn’t work out?

I guess you just cross that bridge when you come to it. And, in the meantime, you pour your heart and soul and brain into Plan A – which is really exactly where you want to be to begin with.

As for me, I'm going to keep figuring it out, as I do. And I'm going to keep writing.

Endless gratitude for this powerful workshop ~

What was your Plan A? Is it part of your life now? How can you reclaim it? I’d love to hear!

Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.


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