The Paradox of Planning / Uncertainty Survival Skills

Title sounds cool, eh? It’s actually simple: make a plan if you can, have a growth mindset toward uncertainty, improvise effectively when things didn’t work as planned. LOL.

I was once received a feedback from someone because I rarely planned things in detail. My excuse was usually to give rooms for improvisation / impromptu ideas during the implementation. However, I understood that not many people felt comfortable with undetailed plan, therefore I tried to adjust some of plans to be more detail – with keeping in mind, that changes of plan might still inevitable. Thus, several other plans to back-up the initial plans were made.

A conversation with a friend of mine few nights ago, reminded me about aforementioned thought. My friend just came back from Australia after 2 years and shared her plan about spending few years ahead in Europe. However, she had several considerations to think before really deciding to go. One of them is consideration of long-term plan.

_uhdwinter145She questioned herself on what she would do after few years in Europe – which my response, obviously, was ‘we never know’. Interestingly though, she mentioned several plans she had in mind: from exploring possible career journey abroad to her own developing eco-friendly hospitality business. Few days after our meeting, she texted me that she already made a decision on what to do in near time, and will be hanging the long-term plan with ‘wait and see’ terminology.

I always believe that changes could happen in second. We might be able to plan things in detail until perfectly sounded. Yet, in planning – we’re dealing with the future, which not always under our control. Since my childhood, I heard about how uncertain the future is, and somehow it sounds louder now. Today’s uncertainty is supported by the high-speed information and super rapid movement of both humans and goods. It becomes too scary for those people who rely on single fix detailed plan.

How could we deal with this?

  1. It’s still important for us to plan (in detail would be good) – and to think about several contingency plans. Talking about plan, it might include (or the harmony of) goals, dreams, aspirations, consequences of roles/decision we took before, etc. Ensuring the plan(s) is aligned with your personal believe and effective in terms of using available resources are necessary as well.
  2. Train our mindset to be more assertive with uncertainty and changes. We all know that the only consistent thing in this world is change (which uncertain). Therefore, seeing uncertainty and changes as opportunities, rather than threats – would help us to see those from the positive side.
  3. Once our mindset is developed, be ready to improvise – without sacrificing fundamental components of the initial plan (e.g. principals / values). I somehow believe that improvisation skill is trainable – if we give ourselves time to experience / experiment. Ability to dealing with this could be named (to my own term) ‘uncertainty survival skills’.
  4. Therefore, uncertainty survival skills will include the skills of initial planning, owning a growth mindset towards uncertainty, and ability to improvise (incl quick decision making) during time of certainty.


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