In many things in life – and business – we are taught to “have a backup plan”. Even marriage comes with a prenuptial agreement in case it fails, right?
But while it might make sense to have a backup plan in place, it could very well be the one thing that keeps you from achieving the very goal you are aiming for…
According to a study published in 2016 – a joint research project between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Pennsylvania – having a “plan B” is a bad idea.You can read the research paper here if you like
There are two sides to the coin:
1 When failure is an option, it often becomes the easy option. People get into business ventures and relationships with “the back door open”. If the going becomes too tough, you can simply cut your losses and run.
Note – 50 years ago, most people didn’t draw up a prenuptial agreement before getting married. You may note that the divorce figures were considerably lower back then. The reason why things changed is not the issue here – the fact remains that since there was no “plan B”, both parties simply had to work to make it work.
Think logically: Two people scale a mountain. One has all the necessary safety systems in place, and the other one simply climbs.
Firstly, the one without the safety harness will pay much closer attention to what he or she is doing. The smallest mistake would be lethal, so failure is simply not an option. The focus is intense, and it is literally a “do or die” situation.
Secondly, the mountaineer using proper safety systems will be spending a lot of time putting those systems in place as he or she ascends. With every step, care is taken to prevent danger if something should go wrong. But it also means that a lot of time is spent focusing on safety, and less time is spent on climbing.
Fair enough, while climbing a mountain you would prefer not to have to die if you make a mistake – but the point is the mindset of the climbers: One is absolutely focused – and moves up faster than the other – while the other one is more concerned with safety than with making it to the top.
And yes, the one climbing without the harness will probably find the journey more stressful – but the fear of failure will be what keeps him or her focused.
2. When you put yourself in a “do or die” situation, you will discover strength you never knew you had. Think of the captain who burned his ship before his warriors went into battle – they had to win, or they couldn’t go back.
Also – if you ever read “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, you will know that Tzu repeatedly placed his soldiers “on death ground”, as he referred to it. He placed his soldiers in impossible situations against insurmountable odds, and the only way out was to win the fight – against the terrible odds.
His reasoning was that “when death seems certain”, the soldiers will fight with no fear – and discover what they are truly capable of.
Having a “plan B” might be “the sensible thing to do” – but it also means that your commitment to “plan A” would be less than perfect.
Keep in mind that not having a “plan B” doesn’t mean that you should simply barge in on a suicide mission. It means that you should plan even more carefully and meticulously, and be prepared for any eventuality that might come your way.
However, plan for everything except failure. Because if you plan for it, you may very well “achieve it” (failure – albeit unintentionally) – and then you will have to use the escape route.
Your best chance of success comes from adopting the mindset that failure is not an option – and then use that fear of failure as a driving mechanism to keep you going, and to keep you focused.
If you choose to do that, you will do whatever it takes to succeed. Period.