"Plans are nothing; planning is everything." (Or, When things don't go as planned) – Noetic Psychiatry
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“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Or, When things don’t go as planned)

The above quote by Dwight D Eisenhower is perhaps the best possible way of looking at dear old Murphy’s Law, which says simply that anything that can go wrong probably will.

Case Study

As an example of Murphy’s Law, I’ll cite an experience I had this week: I have felt out of shape for quite awhile. Overweight, slow, not particularly strong, etc. So last week, I began really working out, going on runs and doing some strength exercises just about every day. I even put together an obnoxiously fancy spreadsheet to track everything. But on Tuesday morning this week, right after my best jog in months, I threw out my back picking up keys from a seat in the car.

(Credit: elixirofknowledge.com)

I only had to lean over a little, and the keys weighed almost nothing. But now I’m confined to the apartment (and often my bed) for several days, unable to attend classes or even wash a few dishes.

But before I digress in to merely complaining, I’ll interject here with the point: in trying to be healthy, I injured myself. Not only that, but the ever-important element of forming a habit is blown out of the water in this case.

You could say that Murphy’s Law has struck in about the worst possible way here. And you may be right. But here’s where Eisenhower’s optimism takes over.

The Universal Conversation

You see, while plans often get bested by the unfortunate whims of fate, planning provides immediate insurance against simply giving up. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have had a conversation with ourselves that goes something like this:
“Well, that didn’t work out. Why do I even try?”
“No, no, no. Don’t think like that. We worked hard on that!”
“But what does that matter? We barely got anywhere. We’ve only just started.”

Already at this point, in the past, we may have given in and given up. But hopefully, at least once or twice, we’ve responded like this:
“Exactly. We put in all this preparation, made all those plans, and then it didn’t work. We hit a bump – that’s all! But now we know something to watch out for. This will make things better. Let’s just go back to our plan, tweak a few things, and then we’ll be good to go.”

Thankfully, years of battling myself over unhealthy habits made this response a bit more automatic this time ’round. In fact, I thought, “Crap! I can’t be throwing out my back. I’m 24. I’m gonna be chasing my baby around before too long. I’ll have to add some serious core workouts to my routine.”

Planning can be as simple as jotting a few notes down in a journal, but can make all the difference. (Credit: @greydoorstudio, instagram.com)

Planning as Incentive

So not only will I be getting back on the saddle as soon as my back allows it, I will be doing so with renewed zeal. I now have specific muscle groups I really want to make as strong as possible. And since I’m now just a few months from the aforementioned baby, I have a deadline.

The point I’m getting at is that the footwork is done when we’ve planned for something. Mishaps can be both educational and motivational, especially when we look at what we’ve already put together on paper.

When you have goals but things don’t go your way, don’t give up; get pumped. Ask yourself what you can get from the experience other than a bruise. Life is for us to grow, for us to learn, for us to make a difference. We don’t have to be sidelined by every little thing; on the contrary, with the right attitude, any stumbling block can become a stepping stone.


Daniel Moster is an office/IT intern at Noetic Psychiatry, who also occasionally moonlights as a writer, mandolin player, and student of Family Life at Brigham Young University. In his free time, he enjoys collecting hobbies, eating sugary foods, and spending time with his beautiful wife.

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