Blog, Self

Never forget: Contingency!

Key Takeaway: A key part of responsible planning – for anything from business to travel – involves contingency planning, or anticipating possible problems or deviations and formulating solutions addressing them. Since we are never fully in control of things – only God being so – it is reasonable and responsible to assume that things can and will not proceed according to plan – and that thus we as responsible persons must be prepared for that.

Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua
Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua

I love plans – business plans, itineraries, schedules, and the like. Plans allow you to think beforehand of what you intend to do, and create a definite structure of those things. You determine in advance what is to be done and what is not to be done, thereby allowing for greater focus on the former and thus becoming more efficient. The order of said focus is also discussed, allowing you to not go all over the place even with just the contents of the plan.

But if there’s one thing that must be learned by us all, it’s that life will not always go according to plan. In fact, as we learned in our business thesis class at university, only 10% of business plans succeed as planned. But it’s definitely not restricted to business – it happens anywhere and everywhere. So much so that if we are truly responsible, we should expect it to happen.

Previous posts I’ve written emphasize the importance of being prepared all the time – from getting ready in the morning ASAP to securing your home and things for an earthquake. Even the New Testament talks about the need to be prepared all the time (in this case for Christ’s Second Coming). Now, we need to be prepared to meet unexpected deviations from our plans. Expecting the unexpected. We call this contingency.

As a student leader and leadership training facilitator in university, I learned quite early on the importance of contingency planning. As professionals, we are expected to be such at all times – no excuses (except for the gravest ones, of course – which itself requires contingency planning!). And especially “but that’s not what was planned”. Things will not proceed according to plan. Accept it. We are not like God; we are not in control of everything. There will always be things beyond our control. As such, we can only take the initiative to be not as caught off-guard when unexpected change happens – which the story of Who Moved My Cheese? illustrates so succinctly.

One of my mentors once taught us that we have to have not just a Plan A, but all the way down to Plan Z. I myself still fail to do this in everything I do. Every possible thing that can go wrong should be considered, and possible solutions to those things thought of. And possible things that can go wrong from those solutions, and so on. This way, once in execution something does happen, you’re better prepared for it, even conjuring up your solution right away as if it was in the original plan all along.

(Of course, it’s possible for the contingency itself to go wrong or deviate, but at least you’re better prepared than totally unprepared).

Paradoxically, the only thing constant in temporal existence is change. Change will either work for us or against us, and not in between. If we want to succeed in life, we need to learn not so much seek change as anticipate and manage it. It’s part of being responsible – it shows that you are conscious and mature enough to appreciate that things will not always go according to plan, and actually taking the initiative to meet it halfway.

Featured Image depicting the four characters from the 2003 film version of Who Moved My Cheese? is a screenshot of the same, made by LDJ Film Productions. Obtained from Glogster.

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