Plans keep journey moving, even through emergencies

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

Although the author is unknown, the statement is a classic: “Bad planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an automatic emergency on my part.”

I like that. It speaks of reality that places things in perspective. But it has two sides.

Side number one: People’s lack of planning or bad planning does create time binds for others. There are times when my own “bad planning” has placed persons — family, friends, fellow workers — in negative positions not of their own making and not of their own deserving. At times, they do the same for me.

Deadlines need respect for the simple reason they provide structure in life. Perhaps the background of “deadline” could mean that unless the line is drawn and faithfully observed, many plans and purposes die.

Making definite plans (whatever the project) simplifies life for all persons involved. The old adage, “Plan your work and work your plan,” contains a truth diminished by neither age nor wear. When work is planned, others can share in working the plan because they know what’s next. There are no surprises. And I’m convinced that surprises, especially in the work flow of the work world, are often the culprits that create emergencies.

Side number two: Emergencies happen, and no amount of advanced planning can eliminate them. The Scottish poet Robert Burns crystallized that thought with the famous line, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray.” We often abbreviate his words, but not his message when we say, “Best laid plans…” and our listeners know exactly what we mean.

Life happens. The most aligned agenda and fine-tuned intentions often go astray. And like the football quarterback, one must call “an audible at the line of scrimmage” or change the plan to meet the unplanned, the unexpected and the emergency.

Yet even within the “audibles” of life, we seek the comfort of a plan. If Plan A doesn’t work out, then we are expected to have a Plan B. In fact, Plan B has become such a staple term that Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary includes it, defining it as “a secondary plan of action in the event that changes would make the primary plan unsuccessful.”

Amazing! Yet, I know folks who have plans, C, D and E, as well. We seek to avoid emergencies at all costs, with back-up plans permeating our minds and our vocabularies.

However, there are times when planning is painful. The future overwhelms us with its uncertainties. Looking beyond today can bring with it a stress and anxiety that sometimes makes it hard to get out of bed.

And the mantra “one day at a time” comes to the rescue, keeping us focused when the magnitude of the tasks ahead are daunting. It breaks down the complex to the simple. It demands attention to the present as it demystifies the future.

It keeps our journey moving.

And that is the goal, isn’t it? Through life’s plans and emergencies, plans A and B, we need to keep our journeys moving.