What I’m about to say is coming out with a bit of a grimace. You see, I love strategy. Thinking ahead, planning the future, and researching options are my bread and butter. Not only do I get paid to think strategically about the future but I enjoy doing it. So here it goes…I’m about to trash talk one of the things I am good at, enjoy, and get paid to do.
The Problem with Strategy
Lately I’ve seen the wheels come off a few well laid plans. I’ve gotten stressed out trying to concoct strategies for things that are quite simply too distant and foggy to plan for right now. Strategy, while incredibly valuable, has its place and also its limits.
As mere mortals, we simply can’t create sure-fire plans or bulletproof strategies, but there are a few skills and character qualities we can develop that can serve us well regardless of whether our plans work or not.
Here are a few of them I’ve been thinking about recently:
When change comes (and we all know it will) it’s far better to adjust to changing pressures than be crushed by them. Sacrificing our long held assumptions and the patterns and habits we’ve been used to and have seen work in the past is quite uncomfortable.
There is really no easy way learn about flexibility, but a few of the things I’ve found that make it a bit easier are:
- Accept that change is going to happen and that whatever you are doing now will become obsolete. Once you accept this as a fact it’s easier to move on.
- Never stop learning.
- Cultivate joy. Our lives are richer and our work is better when we have joy. One of the great things about joy is that it’s possible to be joyful even in the midst of change and difficult circumstances.
It’s important to know what is fundamentally important – your hedgehog concept, as Jim Collins so masterfully explains. If something is fundamental to what you believe and can’t be changed, then that is a good time to dig in and resist. All too often though, the things that change are just preferences that don’t really impact our core beliefs or goals.
When plans start to crumble, stop and ask yourself if the changes are fundamental to what you know you are supposed to be doing or if they are just preferences that don’t change the core purpose.
Focus on what’s close
I recently read No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Navy Seal Mark Owen. In the book Mark said that if he thought about trying to get through the week or even through the whole day during his Navy Seal training it would become overwhelming. Instead he focused only on getting to the next meal. Often when I start getting stressed out, I realize that I’m looking ahead at things that shouldn’t concern me instead of the things I know I should be doing that are close at hand.
Here’s a quote to ponder related to focusing on what’s close:
“Our Main Business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.” – Thomas Carlyle
The Bottom Line
Our best-laid strategies will crumble: there’s almost no question about that. Good character and skills will benefit us regardless of what happens. I’m going to put more effort into developing the things that will work in any event instead of focusing too much on what I can’t control.