Planning to Fail

Why Planning for Setbacks is the Key to Success (and Sanity)

by Julie Hagan Lowe

Does this sound familiar? Things are going great – but then you get sick, the baby stops sleeping through the night, or some other curveball gets thrown your way and suddenly your plans have gone out the window.

Let’s be honest, that's just life, so what's the secret to staying on track with your goals even when life seems to be full of surprises?

The answer is to plan for “failure” and obstacles in advance so you know how to handle them.
Know exactly what you will do if you veer off course on your way to your goal. Decide in advance what failure looks like, what temptation looks like, when to quit, and when to keep going.

This can be as simple as having “if-then” scenarios planned out:

  • If I walk into the kitchen and see a cookie I want, then I have a big glass of water instead.
  • If I get up and the weather is too bad to run, then I will get on the treadmill instead.
  • If there’s cake in the breakroom, then I’ll have one of the low-calorie treats I have in my desk instead.

I know planning for failure goes contrary to a lot of mindset advice out there that tells you to only focus on the positive, lest you manifest an outcome you don’t want.

Frankly, I think that’s like saying keeping a spare tire in the trunk is a bad idea because you’re going to “manifest” a flat tire. It’s a logical fallacy and I don't play those games.

This isn’t about obsessing about all the ways you could possibly fail, getting depressed, and giving up either. This is about preparing in advance for real-life scenarios and for inevitable challenges (like flat tires, sick kids, and birthday cake in the break room).

Sure, you can't predict every bad thing that might happen or every challenge, but this isn't your first rodeo either. You've been alive for a while. You probably know what tends to mess up your diet plans, your productivity plans, etc.

It might not be tons of fun to take a walk down memory lane and remember where you've fallen off in the past, BUT…

When you know in advance what you’ll do when challenges arise you free up your mind from constantly second-guessing yourself or trying to come up with solutions on the fly when things are stressful. (We both know how well that tends to go and it’s not pretty!)

You don’t have to “be strong” during tough moments when you’ve already made the decision for what to do when you hit that point. You prepared for the moment – now you just have to follow your plan.

No need for panic. No need for willpower. You just need a plan!

I worked on creating plans like this with a client recently and it's actually EMPOWERING to realize…You know what, I keep saying I'm going to get my sh@& together when things “calm down” but this is just life…and I can plan for it…and then do just that!

Want to read more articles like this?

I've been blogging for over 10 years on everything from business to marketing to high performance, habits, stress management and more over at my other site, Socially Aligned.


About The Author

Julie Lowe is an author, speaker, and certified coach. When she's not coaching, consulting, or writing, Julie loves spending time with her family and her trio of adorable rescue dogs. She believes tacos are life, loves to read fantasy books, and is an abstract painter. Her first book "A Few Good Habits" debuted at #1 on Amazon and is a Woman's Day magazine Book Series Pick.