A cute video came across my social media feed this week. It features a person and their brain facing a common conundrum. They make a beautiful plan, stand back to admire the plan, then realize it's time to do the plan. And that's when they abandon the plan. I have definitely experienced this exact moment in my life, apparently just like the entire rest of the internet. The video is hilarious precisely because it is so relatable.
Chances are if you live in a modern western industrialized society you have also been there. The reason may vary from person to person, but that transition point from planning to doing is a challenge for us all. Some folks get stuck due to the wiring of our brains. Other folks can't make the shift due to some flavor of circumstance outside our control. Other times, we arrive at this particular pitstop because it is designed into the structure of whatever organization we're working within.
I am reminded of a single-frame cartoon that hung in my office my entire career as a federal employee. The cartoon shows a group of professionals gathered around a conference table. One person is standing authoritatively with a piece of paper in their hands, and a flowchart hangs on the wall. The caption simple reads "this plan will be much easier not to implement than the last plan we didn't implement."
I have no idea where I found that cartoon originally, but I kept it because it captured my experience of bureaucracy perfectly. The people in charge would gather to craft plans for the upcoming quarter, season, etc, then present those plans to all employees in a big meeting. But when we all got back to our desks we would do the same work in the same way, except that we were expected to use new buzzwords to describe what we were doing. In the end I left because I realized I could not create change within government from my position as one tiny cog in the great machine.
There are innumerable versions of advice for how to bridge the gap from planning to doing, but the first step in solving just about anything is knowing the root cause. Most of the advice out there starts by assuming you have already identified your particular flavor of stuck. Very little guidance is focused on sussing-out that minute detail of extreme import. I think this is one of the major reasons we as a global society of humans can't seem to get our collective shit together to do the solving of global problems.
There is a multitude of reasons major national and international institutions flounder in the sea of status quo. Maybe instead of forming another committee to review the issue, we should just start making shifts and see what happens. Try literally anything different and be prepared to adjust and shift and pivot again if and when that change isn't moving us closer to resolution. At the very least it would break the monotony of using only well-worn methods to forge a path forward in this new world.
This week I finished a major project, squeaking in under the deadline like movie action heroes who roll out of the dangerous tomb just as the rock wall falls heavily in place to block the exit for another thousand years. My focus has been spotty to non-existent in the last few weeks due to grief and emotional processing. I wanted to get things done. I wanted to follow my beautiful plan and do all the things I scheduled and put on my calendar, but I just... couldn't. So I reached out for support and reshuffled my priorities.
This week my doing barrier was built of emotional upheaval. Next week it might be a differently flavored disaster. Unfortunately those have been especially plentiful the last two and a half years. And it doesn’t seem like the tide of catastrophe is set to ebb any time soon. So we all need to come together and find a way to help each other keep moving through the many economic, social, and environmental storms on our collective horizon. We can’t just plan a better world, we have to do things and make it happen.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.