“When you fail you plan, you plan to fail.” I’m sure most of you have heard this saying somewhere. There is another phrase that is something to the effect of “Want to make God laugh? Have a plan.”. Whether you are religious or not, this saying speaks to the idea that we are not in control of everything.
Is either one truer than the other? Do you sit down and outline every detail of your life to meet your academic/financial/professional/fitness goal? Do you just throw caution to the wind and do whatever because things are going to happen the way they are going to happen? To that, I say neither. “Have a vision; hold it lightly,” is the motto I strive to live by. It’s the best of both.
In college, as in other areas of life, winging it will only get you so far. Although on some level I know that, I realized a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been winging it in too many parts of my life. With my finances – I pay my bills, but I don’t really have solid financial goals for the next 6 months or 6 years. I make it day to day. With the course I’m teaching - I always know what I’m teaching a day or two before I teach it, but I rarely look far enough ahead to know how it connects to the next unit. And my business, I’m definitely winging it there. I post on social media, I reach out potential clients regularly, and I post on this very blog, but I don’t have a real end game for my business. I need an end game. I figured if this idea is a struggle for me, then it’s definitely a struggle for some of you, as well.
The phrase “end game” refers to chess, where having the last piece standing results from a series of strategic moves. You may have heard another phrase: “This is chess, it ain’t checkers.” Well, life is like that. Sometimes you can live in the moment, get lucky and your moves will position you exactly where you need to be (checkers), but other times you need to think more thoroughly about how the move you’re about to make will impact things later in life (chess). Your academic end game requires thought and planning. It does not mean creating some lofty goal without any idea of how to achieve it. It means listing actionable items within specific time frames as a method of getting you where you want to go. It means holding yourself accountable for getting those things done and knowing what the consequence may be if you don’t.
Have a vision; hold it lightly. Have a vision: know what you want and how you plan to get there. Hold it lightly: recognize that we do not control all aspects of our lived experience and things may change. In chess this occurs when your opponent doesn’t do what you anticipated. In life it’s the curve balls we are thrown when we get sick and miss class right before an exam. Or when you drop your phone and this is the day the screen decides to crack from corner to corner. Better yet, your car needs repair and it’ll cost $200 more than you have in the bank. At the end of the day, life happens. We can’t change or control those things, but we can control how we react to life. Having a vision or plan gives you an idea of where you want to be and can make it easier to get back on track when things do happen. Be decisive and flexible. This applies to life in general, and college specifically. Whatever you do, don’t wing it. That may work out at first, but it’s not sustainable. Eventually someone – or maybe just life – will take your queen