Success is the key mantra of today’s living society. The first step that we take while thinking about achieving success is planning. Planning, deliberating, analysis and action are ascertained to be the four common steps we go through while searching for success.
Planning for success can be stressful and energizing at the same time. Depending on the situation, environment and locus of control, someone might start planning for success.
In the initial one or two days, there is a lot of energy around the planning. But slowly when stress starts creeping in, people generally start looking at a Backup Plan, just for the safety’s sake, as we call it.
The question that arises here is “Is making the Backup plan safe for your actual plan which is eventually going to lead you to success?”
The answer might be “No, Not at all”. The so-called back up plan might actually overpower your actual plan and might make you complacent regarding your actual plan.
There has been some research on this as well.
A paper previously published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that a backup plan can reduce the effort you put forth to achieve a goal, thus hurting your chances of achieving it.
Most of us think a backup plan is always a good idea. However, a latest study highlights an unintended cost of making backup plans: a lower chance of successfully achieving your primary goal.
Investigation started with a simple survey at a large east-coast train station. Researchers approached people who were waiting for trains, asking them to write about a goal they were pursuing and how much effort they were putting forth towards achieving their goal.
Then, participants were asked if they had made a backup plan for their goal. Analyzing the data collected from the survey, researchers found that the people who had made a backup plan were putting forth less effort towards achieving their goals.
Although this finding was consistent with previous hunches about the risks of making backup plans, correlation does not always equal causation.
The possibility for this kind of a result can be variant.
It might be that people who were working less hard towards their goal were more likely to make a backup plan because they knew they were more likely to need one. Or maybe, people who didn’t really care much about goal achievement to begin with were putting in less effort and were more likely to make a backup plan.
Coming back to our current discussion, a backup plan, however, can have various dimensions. Let’s elaborate with an example:
Carol is dissatisfied with her current job. The reasons are manifold starting from dissatisfaction with the job description to a general distaste of the corporate culture after having worked in it for over 7 years now.
The most obvious primary plan would be to discuss the matter with her current boss asking for a role change and to initiate any sort of discussions that would improve her dissatisfactions. Again, the obvious backup plan with regards to dissatisfaction with the Job description would be to change her current company.
However, the distaste for corporate culture would require her to change her line of work. In this scenario, Carol is thinking of 2 kinds of backup plan.
If she is only thinking of changing her current company, then her backup plan would entail having a one directional route. However if she chooses to change her line of work altogether, she would have to adopt a parallel route for a backup plan.
In the first kind, Carol with the one directional backup plan seems to be in a safe place. The only interesting factor to be noted would be that the primary plan which is to stay back and talk about a role change will already have taken a backseat.
Carol’s focus is most likely to shift to the backup plan rather than the primary plan because she would be already tired with the current company, she would focus on looking out for another job than go through the lengthy process of resolving the issue within the current company and her manager.
This would hence make her complacent regarding her primary plan.
In the second kind, Carol will have to parallely look for another complete different line of work while dealing with her current scenario.
This would require her to deal with multiple scenarios at the same time, hence creating more confusion while searching for a job and preparing for the interviews.
With all these setbacks in mind, the temptation to completely shift to an even newer plan increases or to drop both plans altogether.
Hence, it is important to remember that while having a backup plan might seem somehow safe, the consequences of formulating it might not, in reality, be that way. It is advisable that the focus should be on the PRIMARY PLAN and not the BACKUP plan to gain success.
With reference to the example and research mentioned above, it can be stated that a backup plan might not be the healthiest route to success.
A healthier process can be adopted in the primary planning itself by doing the below:
- Choose your goal practically, i.e., something that is achievable
- Measure your resources before making the plan
- Analyzing the consequences
- Focus very deeply on your plan and believe that you have the strength to execute it.
- Be prepared for the tough challenges that might come your way.
- Be in a very mental calm state of mind while deciding on the planning.
- Be patient
Having these weapons with you makes you ready to take up the challenge of your primary plan and prevents you from making a backup plan, out of that stress of not being able to achieve.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that life throws us challenges at every turn, especially when we want to achieve something and succeed in that.
But we have to keep ourselves strong and be prepared for whatever challenge come our way and take a more focused approach rather than trying to play safe with keeping backup options and getting more boggled.
Backup options can be kept in consideration, but only after you have tried full fledgedly to achieve your success as planned primarily.,
“How backup plans can harm goal pursuit: The unexpected downside of being prepared for failure (Jihae Shina; Katherine L. Milkman)