If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

The Power of Gratitude

Of all the attributes successful people possess few are more important than a grateful heart.

Back in my days of working with the Dale Carnegie Organization there was a 50 something guy in one of our classes who looked very successful. He obviously had money, drove his choice of the many fancy cars he owned. He had houses (notice I didn’t say homes) around the world in which he could live comfortably. At first glance he appeared to have it all.

But it was never enough. He was one of the most unhappy and “relationship poor” people I had ever met.

The stories he told were in stark contrast to the ones told by a 30 something guy with 5 kids. It seemed as if every example from the younger man was laced with struggles and challenges that the older man knew nothing about. His stories were also filled with something else missing from the older man’s…a grateful heart.

He appreciated the opportunity every challenge presented him. He appreciated the chance to learn and overcome obstacles which he knew would better prepare him for the future. He found “the silver lining” in every cloud.

It was in that particular 12 week Dale Carnegie course that I learned about the true power of gratefulness.

The older, more successful appearing man in the 12 week program knew nothing of his gifts. He knew little of his actual strengths, and he had long ago surrendered his power to be happy.

The younger man’s thoughts were focused on appreciating what he had, not what he wanted. He was thankful for what he was able to earn. Thankful for his God given gifts that made it possible for him to support his family. Thankful for his one overcrowded home in a modest neighborhood and I suspect thankful every time his 20 year old car actually started.

He was happy and as far as he was concerned, one of the richest people on earth.

Now I ask you…which of those two men was the most successful?

You may find this difficult to believe if you find yourself struggling. You will find it hard to believe if you’re a “keeping up with the Joneses” type person. But your greatest happiness is within you, not in chasing what you’re without.

Practice gratefulness each day. Absolutely work hard for your dreams but make time each day to also appreciate what you already have.

If you find it hard to be grateful for what you have today it’s very likely you’ll find it just as hard to be grateful for what you may have tomorrow. It has been my experience that an ungrateful heart is also an unhappy one.

“Things” will never make you happy but the power of gratitude most certainly will. If nothing else, be grateful for that.