The importance of making plans (even when you don’t stick to them)

Many books, courses and articles teach us how we can set goals and how we can stick to them. In fact, I have published a post recently in which I share my favourite way of setting goals. The main reasons we make plans is to gain a sense of control over our future. Yet I wholeheartedly agree that life happens when you are busy making other plans. Looking back on all the plans and goals I have made in my life I suspect only a handful have come true. And my life at the moment is without a doubt completely different than I could have ever planned a few years ago. That is why I think it is so important to stay flexible and adjust plans.  To not get stuck on one vision of how our life should pan out. Even if our sense of control is completely illusory and despite life often not going according to plan, I still believe making plans can help us (at least the worrying type among us) in various ways.

It drives action

Goals and plans can drive us to action. By visualising what we want for our life and then planning for it, we can set our dream life into motion.  Sure, along the way life often throws us unexpected curveballs. This requires us to adjust our goals and plans. It is also unlikely that we will get everything in life that we plan for, depending on how ambitious our plans are. But if we don’t set goals and make plans then most of us will end up doing nothing focused.

When you don’t move forward, you move backward

As cliché as this sounds, plans help us to move forward. There is no such thing as a happy continuum. When we don’t actively seek to make our bodies stronger and fitter, we will lose our muscle strength and cardiovascular condition (trust me on this one if you have never suffered from being lazy). When we don’t actively seek to increase our wealth, it will decrease (due to inflation). And when we don’t go on all our dream trips, we will look back on our life in regret. Making plans ensures we put a (metaphorical) stick in our bum and move forward. This doesn’t mean we should be in the rat-race of always more. Our goals could include less work, fewer activities and ultimately fewer worries. But unless we plan towards whatever we want to achieve we will likely regress more firmly into the situation we are stuck in.

Reduce stress

Lastly, making plans can greatly reduce our stress. Having an overwhelming amount of tasks in front of us, not knowing where our future is heading or being unsure of what we want from life, can leave us feeling very anxious. Clearing out some space to make plans can give us confidence when we are feeling overwhelmed. This can reduce our stress levels significantly. I tend to think of it as a way to file the thoughts in my brain. And after I have made a new plan for my life/month/day I always feel miles lighter and happier.

Making plans won’t always make us achieve our goals and it is important that we don’t let our plans make us too rigid to lose the ability to change them when life takes us in a different direction. Plans are meant to be a means to an end, not the end itself. Even the goals we set ourselves should be seen as tools rather than our reason d’etre. Taking life as it comes and finding peace in whatever cards we get dealt is our true life ‘goal’ in my opinion. Making plans, however, can get us going even if we will probably spend the rest of our days tweaking and sometimes downright overhauling the plans that once sounded so perfect.

Do you love making plans as much as I do? Or do you prefer to take life as it comes?


  1. December 5, 2018 / 5:57 pm

    Wat een mooi artikel! Ik ben een echte planner, eigenlijk om al deze drie redenen wel 🙂 Het maken van lijstjes helpt me om orde in de chaos in mijn hoofd te creëren en zonder het maken van concrete plannen zou het bereiken van mijn doelen ook heel lastig worden. Ik ben echt zo iemand die concrete acties op papier moet zetten om vooruit te komen en doelen te bereiken (of in ieder geval een poging daartoe te doen.
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    • Lizzyfied
      December 6, 2018 / 5:52 pm

      Leuk om te lezen dat je, jezelf in het artikel herkent! Ik ben inderdaad ook echt een planner. Zonder mijn gedachten op papier te zetten en te structureren, haal ik mijn doelen inderdaad ook niet.

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