Last week I worked with a client who needed to make a big bold shift into the next phase of his life. It required him to bring forth new parts of himself to organize his time more efficiently and to think carefully about the resources he would need. We spent about 90 minutes working on this from many angles. By the time we were done, he was feeling confident, prepared, and organized. The anxiety that pervaded the beginning of the call was now relaxed.
“Well, that is great,” he said, “problem solved, I feel much better!”
Coming up with a plan is an essential first step, but it is not the whole solution. Imagine that you live in San Francisco and you are sitting at home one evening with a nice cup of tea and you say to yourself, “I think I would love to do a road trip down the coast to San Diego this weekend.” So you pull out the map (okay, okay, maybe on your laptop) and plan your route. Maybe you think you will drive to Santa Cruz early in the morning and have breakfast. Then, so long as it is open, you can drive down Highway 1 through Big Sur and maybe even make it to San Luis Obispo for a late lunch, keeping in mind the traffic ahead when you pass through Los Angeles.
By the end of an hour or two, you might have the trip well planned, but that does not put you in San Diego. In fact, you have not even left your apartment. Planning is essential, but the execution of the plan brings into play very different parts of ourselves than the plan itself. There are two things that make the execution different than the planning.
First is, nothing ever works out in the way you expected. When you are sitting in your apartment in San Francisco, you cannot anticipate running low on gas along Highway 1, or getting tired and needing a nap, or road closures and traffic accidents that happen, or all kinds of other obstacles. Plans assume a perfect world, reality requires flexibility.
The second and much more important way in which execution is different than planning is that we all make the mistake of assuming ourselves to be linear. We forget, that for each and every assumption we make about what we want, who we are, and what we believe, the opposite is equally true. We never anticipate resistance.
Whenever you make a plan to do anything, there is only a part of you or a collection of parts, that are actually on board. There may be just as many other parts who are not consulted and do not agree, but who may at this very moment are making their own plan of sabotage. Learning to anticipate and work with fragmentation is a much more significant key to success than coming up with the perfect plan.
When I go through a session as I did with my client, we get the ducks in a row to get clear about the outcome, and even when my client says “great, problem is solved” I know that all we have really done is fastened our seat belts and turned the key in the ignition. Now the journey can begin.