Letting Go of “The Plan”
Keith’s experience is hardly unique. We’ve all had setbacks and felt the disappointment of things not going according to plan. What was unique about Keith was his realization that perhaps the planning itself was the problem.
“I decided that how I was doing the business wasn’t working— and I wanted to do it completely different than I ever had before. I pivoted right there in that moment. Instead of doing what I thought I should do each day, I would sit down, take a few deep breaths, ask one question, and then sit and wait for the answer. I was calling out to someone or something at a higher frequency than my ego or my little mind to lead me, to guide me, and to show me the way. I would not be moved until I got the answer to the question I had asked.”
The answers came, delivered as though by direct download. “I was hearing a voice, and it was telling me what to do next. I just asked, waited for the answer, and took action on what I was told to do. I did this each and every day. The results were a complete about- face from any previous project.”
One of the most daunting tasks for prospective pivoters is to face the fact that the path to the life they dream of doesn’t come with a ready-made plan.
There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for going from manufacturing manager to musician. There’s no college course to tell you exactly how to become an entrepreneur when your entire work history has been as a salaried accountant.
Believe it or not, though, this is a good thing. You’d have a lot more competition if every pivot were laid out in crystal clear, un- failing steps. But pivots don’t work that way. They don’t come pre- packaged and clear as diamonds.
But of course that’s exactly how we want it. The idea that we can make a step-by-step, one-foot-after-the-other foolproof plan feels so safe, so easy, so right, that it’s almost impossible for some to resist its siren call. We love plans. Workout plans, business plans, diet plans, life plans—the more plans, the better.
But life doesn’t work that way.
And therein lies the paradox of clarity. The more we try to bring an assembly-line precision to change, the harder it is to change. The more we try to force our pivot onto an instruction booklet template, the more it eludes us. We can’t have clarity until we’re willing to let go of it.
So how can we resolve the dilemma?
The Pivot Staircase
Pivoting is a process, not a plan–and each step in the process creates the next step. Even as I write these words, I don’t know exactly what the next paragraphs will be. I have a goal and direction, even an outline based on the courses I have taught to thousands of people, but each word I write creates the next. Looking at a finished book or other creation, it’s easy to think that it was conceived in perfect form and balance. In reality, I can tell you it’s a whole lot messier.
And here’s the thing: Pivoting without a crystal clear plan for the entire path is the same. We still go step-by-step, as if we’re climbing a set of stairs in the dark. You may not be able to see more than one stair ahead, but that doesn’t change anything. You still move ahead one step at a time. When you reach the top and in the light of dawn look back, the entire staircase, every step, is laid out in perfect, logical, connected order. You just couldn’t see it during the climb.
PIVOT POINT: Pivoting is a process, not a plan.
Much of life is the same. Everything looks clear in hindsight, perfectly ordered, logically connected. The evolution of your career to date makes sense looking back, doesn’t it? How you ended up here instead of there, with this instead of that—it all makes sense looking back. But looking ahead? No way.
Go back ten years in time. Could you have predicted the path that brought you to where you are now? You may be where you hoped to be, but did you get there the way you planned? Most often, the answer is no. We reach our goals—and other things we never imagined—through a path as winding and tangled as a ball of string.
It’s the same for everyone. It was the same for The Beatles and Gandhi, and it’s the same for you. A good life comes with many things. The one thing it doesn’t have is an instruction manual.
PIVOT POINT: You don’t need a guaranteed step-by-step plan to get where you’re going, only a willingness to take the next step.
Rest assured, you can pivot step-by-step. You don’t have to take more than one step at a time.
But you must accept that you can’t see all the steps from the beginning. At times you may see several steps. But as the stairs wind out of view, you have to trust that the staircase keeps going. Just because you can’t see the steps doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
There’s a word for this type of behavior. It’s called faith.
PIVOT POINT: Just because you can’t see all the steps doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Can you plan? Yes.
Can you follow the plan? Sure.
Can you deviate? Absolutely. In fact, you will almost certainly have to.
You can plan all you want. You can plan and re-plan. You can set goals, and list steps to get there. You can do all those things and more. But you must never, ever let a lack of a clear plan keep you from moving forward. Don’t be a slave to the need for a plan. Trust in yourself and your pivot.