We all operate more or less from some kind if plan or idea of what we are trying to do. In this task, we consider the following options for our plan:
- We can keep doing what we have always been doing. Continued efforts to follow a plan that made sense to begin with can lead to several results. First, following the plan may ultimately lead to success and to achieving the goals we originally had in mind when we started the plan. Often, people give up too early in disappointment when beginning results seem hopeless and without merit. Yet, if the plan makes sense, we may need to have patience and keep our efforts focused on our ultimate objective and see what happens. I have watched some people begin a career, for example, and find that the early years lead to nothing but despair and bad luck. Yet, some of these people may persevere and take advantage of learning all they can learn during the lean years and master the skill or job they began and then achieve a high level of success as a reward for not giving up. I remember reading the biography of General Norman Schwarzkopf who spent several years at menial and thankless tasks on his ultimate road to an honored role in U.S. military history. I have watched others spend the necessary apprenticeship learning a skill or a craft or a job and become an expert in what they began and then achieve their goals.
- Second, we may reach an absolute dead end in trying to continue our original plan. The trick is to have a sixth or even seventh sense about when it is time to throw in the towel, so to speak, and start over again. We may often have a goal in mind at the outset of our careers but feel that we are locked in to our current situation and need to keep doing what we are doing just to survive and support our family. As a result, many people remain stuck in jobs they do not like or jobs that offer little incentive for advancement. Over my long teaching career, I learned that many students, perhaps most, are not certain about what they should major in during their college years and often remain stuck in what they started because changing majors would necessitate sticking around longer and taking more courses. And many students end up in jobs that are totally unrelated to their college major. Having the courage to launch forth down a new road when all efforts to see merit in the plan you began with have failed can be a life-saving change.
- Third, we can tweak our original plan, thus taking advantage of what we have already achieved and learned to follow a more promising but similar route to achieving our goal. Rather than staying in a rut, we need continually to evaluate our progress, our mistakes, our flops, and our successes and then take appropriate action.
- We can make a continual effort to learn how to do our job better and succeed in what we are already doing. We may surprise ourselves and find a new lease on life by making an effort to advance our skill and knowledge level rather than just stay stuck in something that doesn't provide the challenge we need to stay motivated in our work.
In my own case, I decided during my senior year in high school that I wanted to be a college professor. I will never know where that unlikely goal originated. I never lost track of that goal. I had many setbacks and more than once I thought I could never achieve my original goal. Finally, after years of struggle and work, I completed eight years of college and then spent 45 years teaching college plus another 4 years doing public finance research for the Wyoming Legislature and the U.S. Treasury Dept. I felt like quitting numerous times as my family grew and my responsibilities escalated in taking care of them. Yet, with my wife's support, somehow we never gave up on our original plan, though we tweaked it multiple times along the way.
Task Number 29: Evaluate your plan. Having a plan is important, but plans are not set in cement. Plans are flexible ideas, goals, and procedures that we can alter, tweak, or abandon when we see the need to make changes. Plans, however, are useless if we don't make an effort to follow them. Good luck in evaluating your plan, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.