Why it’s time to scrap Plan B
It’s always good to have a backup plan. That way, if things don’t go as expected, there’s always Plan B, right?
While that sounds good in theory, new research shows our backup plans may do us more harm than good.
The research was published online in May 2016 in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
For the study, participants were asked to perform a cognitive task. They were told they would be rewarded if they performed well.
Some participants were then advised to think of different ways to obtain those perks, in case they didn’t do well at the task. Those who had backup plans, performed worse.
And it makes sense, really.
You snooze, you (hypothetically) lose
Having a backup plan can be the difference between pressing snooze continually and forgoing your morning workout — or actually peeling yourself out of bed and doing it.
After all, if you tell yourself you can hit the gym after work instead of first thing in the morning, you’re effectively giving yourself permission to just keep on snoozing.
The problem is that backup plans aren’t always air-tight.
After work, when everyone decides to go for drinks, it’s easy to neglect your backup plans — and tempting to simply make more backup plans.
(‘I’ll definitely go to that spin class tomorrow morning instead,’ you tell yourself, as you chug back that second beer.)
In other words, backup plans can sabotage your goals.
But that doesn’t mean you should toss them aside altogether, says Clinical Psychologist Dr Lara Winten from Let’s Talk Psychology.
Having a backup plan can help you manage perceived uncertainty and prevent you from lapsing into “all or nothing” thinking.
That means, if your original plans fall through, you’re less tempted to throw in the towel because you’ve ‘failed’.
Whether you should use a backup plan depends on your personality, says Dr Winten. She says they’re helpful to some people, but can hinder others.
To find out how they impact you, Dr Winten recommends paying attention to how you feel when you use them.
Pressing pause on Plan B
Do they make you feel comforted, knowing there’s a Plan B just in case? Or do they make you feel justified in forgoing Plan A?
If you’re repeatedly relying on fall back plans, Dr Winten says you need to ask yourself what that tells you about your original goals.
Instead of relying on such plans, Mindset Coach Alyce Pilgrim says you could just approach your original goals with everything you’ve got.
Instead of making Plan A so unlikely to succeed that you need a Plan B, reconsider your original plan, and break it down into achievable pieces.
“Ask yourself: ‘What is one small, easy action I can do right now that will inch me closer to what I really want?”
It could be as simple as making phone call, sending an email, or going for a walk around the block.
“Whatever it is, the idea is to make it so incredibly simple that you can easily do it.”
From there, add another small step to your plan — and so on and so forth, until you’re well on your way to turning your dreams into reality.
But if you feel your backup plans are standing in the way of achieving your goals, Pilgrim says it’s okay to ditch them.
“If you put more energy and time actually fully focusing on seeing the original plan come to fruition, more often than not you won’t actually need a backup plan,” she says.
After all, if you can see the lights from Plan B shining right ahead of you, it’s easy to just skip right on past Plan A.
But if there’s no Plan B anymore, then you will do whatever it takes to make Plan A work, says Pilgrim.
“If there’s no other way to do something you really want, you will make it happen.”
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