“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I like schedules. My travel itinerary is on my Surface, my Droid and a printed calendar that hangs in the kitchen. I set an appointment every few weeks just to look at my calendar – 2 months back and 2 months ahead. What have I done and where am I heading?
I love project plans – of all types. When I was in the military, I excelled at drafting operations orders (OPORD). During ROTC, we once drafted an OPORD for a training run through the streets of Boston, ending at our rival ROTC unit at another college. They were shocked when a group of cadets came through the front door, chanting “Delta!” and “Suffolk U!” as we ran through their hallways. A well-organized, well-executed raid. I think it was the first time we received both a commendation and a reprimand for the same action.
In my role as a consultant, I love the start of new projects. The opportunity to map out a major undertaking from start to finish – assigning roles, setting due dates and establishing milestones. Confirming the timelines against competing projects and responsibilities. Then hopefully, delivering the project on time for the client.
Creating a training plan for a race gives me the same thrill – the spreadsheet is a blank canvas waiting to come to life. I look back at similar races, comparing my current fitness level to the past. Then I take into consideration the season’s probable weather, known travel plans and other factors. I’m able to start the training cycle with confidence that I have a plan to show up at the starting line fully prepared.
With all of this planning, I can be sure of only one thing – I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow.
None of us know what will take place in the future. Not tomorrow, not next year, not even in the next 5 minutes. Our past experiences suggest what will probably happen, but the unknown has a sly way of making an appearance at the most inconvenient time. The sun will probably rise in the morning, however it might have gone supernova 8 minutes ago. Or, there may be a check for a million dollars in today’s mail. We’ll find out soon enough.
Understanding that we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the future. In fact, the opposite is true. We can be organized and flexible at the same time. A good plan starts with a goal in mind. When something unexpected occurs, we can adjust the plan to regain the path to our objective.
When the unforeseen happens, and it will, we need to stop and assess the situation. We may have to change the times we have scheduled. We may need to find new resources – people, money, emotional support – in order to complete the plan. We may even have to reevaluate our goals, and reconsider what’s most important to us.
The ability to adapt our tactics to an unpredictable situation is essential to our success. We learn to accept what is out of our control. We take the time to focus on the actions we can control. Then take the necessary steps to enable the future we hope to achieve.