In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
In the history of martial achievement, decision-making on the fly is often touted as one of the keys to victory. The leaders whose names live on through the ages–Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte–all had a knack for shifting men and materiel quickly in the fog of war.
Even with rapidly advancing technology, warfare will always be about completing objectives via swift adaptation.
Life is the same way. In the fury of day-to-day routines, we often lose sight of larger goals. Unlike the military, which has a command structure allowing officers to oversee dozens (or millions) of enlisted men, our brains must stop to refocus on the big picture from time to time in order to make it happen.
Blending an aim with a plan is crucial.
Every skirmish in history has been fought with a mission in mind. Without a greater purpose, soldiers would give up or retreat at the first hint of resistance. Having a target provides the impetus for action and galvanizes you when the going gets rough. There will be far more days of slogging through mud than skipping through meadows.
The dogged pursuit of higher ground is what separates you from the uncommitted and unwilling. Knowing you must finish your task, regardless of the challenges you face, gives importance to your endeavor. Your certainty will allow you to find the means to perform, even though it may be different than you expected.
The method must be flexible.
Any commander will tell you there are times of doubt where one misguided strategy causes an entire operation to collapse. The ability to chuck an ineffective policy in favor of new tactics is the hallmark of success in swiftly changing situations.
There is tremendous value in planning. When done in groups, it creates an exchange of ideas and insights to shape the ideal path. And, in the event of failure, it leaves a trail of fateful decisions that can be avoided in the future.
However, strict adherence to one design will make the road much more difficult to travel. Misguided approaches have lead to downfall over and over again.
The plan changes but the aim doesn’t.
Life is a long campaign through a series of battles. Of course, it is impossible to win or make perfect choices every time. Without something to strive for and the determination to do whatever it takes to get it, you end up oppressed by the overlords of “what might have been.”
What are you aiming at and how do you plan to get there?