Making plans in your life is a key habit to have if you want to be successful. Plans give direction, and help you move forward in a meaningful way.

But what happens when you start overplanning? What does it even mean to overplan? It means you’re planning your life as if you lived in a movie. In a movie, you have complete control over every single variable, there are no unknowns. Everything happens the exact way it’s written in the script.

But that never happens in real life.

In reality, you can’t plan your life down to the minute and expect those plans to hold up. And trying to could cause more harm than good.

Overplanning is a pitfall that so many people make. But read on and you’ll find out what you should be doing instead to make sure your plans are ones that help, not hurt you.

Know What You Want and Work Backwards From There

You must have a big-picture, overall plan for your life. You have to think past where you’re heading right now, and start thinking about where you want to be in five years, ten years, twenty years.

What are some major things you want to accomplish in your life?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Do you even want to be remembered?

You can’t wander through life without a real sense of purpose. Actually, I take that back. You absolutely can go through life without a real purpose, but who wants to live a purpose-less life? You want live a purposeful life.

Once you get really clear about what you want out of life and what your goals are, you can start working your way backwards to determine what you should be doing today. 

Start with your five-year goal, then ask yourself, “What do I need to do in the next year to get myself closer to my five-year goal?”

Once you answer, ask yourself, “What do I need to do in the next three months to get myself closer to my one-year goal?”

Then you break that three-month goal down in to one month goals.

And then you work day by day on achieving that goal for month.

This is an extremely powerful exercise and I’ve used it myself to see significant progress in my life. But you can only benefit from this if you know what it is you want out of your life.

Don’t Sweat the Details

Now you’re at a point where you’ve made your plan and you know exactly where it is you want to go and what you want to accomplish, but noticed I stopped at the monthly goals. You know why?

Life is full of surprises and you’d have to be some sort of superhuman to accurately predict every single curveball life is going to throw at you.

The only thing we can expect in life is that we can’t expect everything.

When you try to plan your day down to when you’ll use the restroom and what time you’ll brush your teeth, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle.

Such minute planning erases any chance you have of dealing with the unexpected.

And you know what happens to your psyche when you get caught off guard? You start doubting yourself. You lose confidence in your abilities. You start to question if what you’re trying to accomplish is even worth it. And eventually, you quit. I’ve been there before. Defeated. It’s not a pretty place to be, but it can be avoided by leaving a little room for the unexpected.

Take Action, and Take Notes

General Patton said it best: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

All that planning you did in the previous step is going to be a complete waste, unless you act on it. Consistent action is the only thing that’s going to take you from where you are right now to where it is you want to go.

Regardless of what it is you’re trying to achieve—make more money, get a better job, find a spouse, improve your relationship, lose weight, it doesn’t matter—action is king.

A lot of people are hesitant to take action, usually for one reason. They’re afraid of failure.

Being afraid of failure is probably the worst thing you can do for yourself.

Look at any successful person and you’ll realize that their “success” is just a mountain of failures. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company. Colonel Sanders was denied 1,000 times before someone ever wanted his chicken recipe. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. The list goes on.

Failure is a necessary hurdle on the road to success.

You have to learn to embrace failure because it’s the best teacher you’ll ever find. When you find yourself about to face plant, realize it, and learn from. Dust yourself off and identify what went wrong. Identify what exactly lead to your failure. Then get really clear on what you’re going to do differently to make sure that failure doesn’t happen again.

Featured photo credit: origami_potato via flickr.com

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