The Perils of Planning Dependence
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like to plan out where I’m going and how to get there. I like to make sure I used the most efficient, effective strategies to reach my destination.
That’s great if I’m doing something relatively straightforward, like preparing Thanksgiving dinner or planning a cross-country adventure. Those projects are big enough to present complicated planning puzzles; break them down, though, and you often find that none of the individual pieces are terribly difficult.
But I’ve realized something in the past few months.
[Tweet “DETAILED PLANS can only take you through CHARTED TERRITORY.”]
What if you want to do something completely outside your comfort zone?
Should plans go out the window? Lately, I’ve been wrestling with this question. I’m working on a new project, a transmedia* expansion of the story world in which my most recent middle grade fantasy series is set.
Transmedia? I didn’t even know what this meant two months ago, so it’s an understatement to say that this project takes me into unfamiliar territory! There’s so much to learn, so much to read, so many ideas and storytelling possibilities to explore…
It all sends my planning urge into overdrive. My brain tries to plot out what topics I should pursue, and what order I should pursue them in; it tries to prioritize, estimate the most effective use of my time, figure out which direction I should be heading at any given moment.
Like I said, all that’s great as long as I know where I’m going. Since I don’t, that penchant for planning can become a liability.
I think the issue is that humans are hard-wired to seek safety (some of us more than others, as evidenced by certain athletes at the Sochi Olympics…) When you stray from what you know, from the well-beaten path of the familiar, a little voice starts bombarding you with doubts. You aren’t prepared. You don’t know enough. You’re wasting your time. You should stick with what you know. You’re going to fail, FAIL, FAIL!
When you’re trying something new — when you’re heading off the map — you can’t plan every step ahead of time. At some point, you just have to dive in. When you do, you’ll be most effective if you can mute those doubtful voices for a while.
Step 1: Counterintuitive as it seems, one of the best ways to silence doubts is to listen to them. By setting a specific time to reassess plans, priorities, and progress, you reassure those doubting voices that you won’t ignore them forever — giving you the freedom to focus on one thing at a time.
Tip: If you find that doubts and worries continue to ambush you, making it hard to create, trying jotting down troubling thoughts when they pop into your mind. By creating a list of troubling thoughts, you send your brain the message that it doesn’t need to keep reminding you about them: you’ve got them written down for later consideration!
Step 2: Once you’ve made a decision, create a “cheat sheet” of responses for doubts that continue to nag at you. There’s a difference between assessing your plans and constantly second-guessing yourself: one helps you choose a direction, whereas the other wastes your valuable time.
Step 3: Embrace your vision. Silencing doubts is only half of the equation. Once you’ve chosen your destination — once you’ve committed to test the waters, or start down the road toward your big, crazy, wonderful dream — it’s easy to spend so much energy on fighting doubts and fears that you forget to keep your eye on the prize.
Stepping out into the unknown can be scary, but I’m convinced that’s where you find treasure. If you’ve faced those voices of doubt and still feel compelled to go forward, embrace your vision! Don’t just argue with the naysayers (internal or external): put your vision in front of you, to remind you why it’s worth heading into the unknown.
Wherever your journey leads, I promise — it will be worth it!
Do you have a vision that takes you into uncharted territory? What is it? What strategies help you to keep moving forward? We’d love to hear more in the comments!
* Never heard about transmedia? Don’t worry, you’re going to hear more about it in the coming weeks! The quick definition is that transmedia is a type of storytelling that uses multiple media platforms to deliver the story. For example, the Emmy Award-winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries retold the story of Pride and Prejudice using video blogs, Twitter, LookBook, and Instagram. If you want to learn more, author Henry Jenkins has a great post on his site, “Transmedia 101.“