plan b

So your initial plan didn’t work out?

Sorry to hear that, but before you go running to your back up plan you may want to read on.

Recently a colleague of mine asked me for my opinion (not coaching) on what they should do after their initial plan failed. I asked, what I presume many people in my position would say…”what’s next, do you have a next step or plan of attack?”.

Somewhat anxious by the question, they paused and said, “I do and I bet it will work out better this time.”

This got me thinking…

  • If his Plan B was better than his Plan A, why didn’t his back up plan become his original? Rhetorical of course but maybe the real question and focus should’ve been on the strength of his Plan A the whole time.

No matter how you slice it, the question remains:

  • Is it really worth your time having a Plan B?

Here is what I learned when it comes to Plan A vs. Plan B.

There are many reasons we create Plan B’s. So much so, life and history is marred in famous quotes on this topic. The general fear of failure is the dominant reason we create Plan B’s. It’s no wonder people have literally died in the process of succeeding in their Plan A.

This shows up in our everyday life in how we avoid being disappointed so we protect ourselves by having a back up plan. In can be as simple as someone calling or texting you to get out of something or more complex in matters of career. Professionally, you rarely apply to only one job right? You apply to several, because you know there is a chance you won’t get the first or second or third…so knowing there is fear of failure, you protect yourself by engaging in a back up plan.

The psychology behind creating a plan A and B simultaneously.

Having a plan B isn’t a bad thing, but how much energy and focus you place on it can indeed sink your plan A. According to a recent study on Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes:

  • There are clear dangers and risks of having a “Plan B” when you truly want your “Plan A” to succeed. Once you begin thinking about a fallback plan, your desire to achieve your ultimate goal decreases.

So there you go, having a Plan B isn’t (always) a bad thing. It’s your relationship to the plan which can be the pitfall. Gary Vaynerchuck who’s noted as always going “all in” – boldly stated in an article:

  • Have that backup plan. But never let it take the wheel. The moment it does that, it becomes plan A. Having a backup plan doesn’t mean you will fail. But focusing on it too much? Bad idea.

Holding On To Your Plan A.

Remember when I said earlier that maybe my friend should’ve had a stronger Plan A? Building out a stronger more contingent Plan A in case of failure can in fact become your Plan B. Take Sir James Dyson, the man who made household cleaning cool. Dyson endured 5,126 rejected prototypes. He drained his savings over a 15-year period just to get his Plan A right. Undiscouraged from rejection, Dyson looked at ways in which he could improve his idea without giving up and having to try something new. In the end, his Plan A was a success. History is paved with these types of stories.

The Flaw To Your Plan B.

Once could argue (and they have) that creating a back up plan in case your first fails, sets you up for never fearing failure. And there are countless studies that prove fearing failure can be a motivating factor that pushes you across the finish line. Here is an excellent article from Psychology Today on Fear As A Motivating Force to further explain.

Final thoughts: If your original plan fails, remember that you don’t have to scrap it completely and settle for an alternative but rather take a moment to examine what didn’t work (and what did) and take the appropriate next actions steps. A successful outcome occurs when you plan for success and anticipate the potential for failure. In the end, whether you have a Plan A or B, you can still fail on the way to success.

The floor is yours: How does failure lead to success?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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