Why you need to tear up your Plan B

I had a round-up email this morning from The Pool. One of the headlines, from Viv Groskop, immediately caught my eye:


I didn’t get as far as actually clicking and reading the article as I was very busy lying in bed and looking at the cats but I immediately got what it was talking about.

A few days ago I was in town with a list of jobs in my head. ‘I’m going here next,’ I said to the person with me, ‘to organise this.’ The ‘this’ was an event I wanted to put on at a particular venue.

‘What if they say no,’ said the other person, ‘what’s your Plan B?’

I stopped for a bit and looked confused.

‘Plan B?’ I said. ‘I didn’t think to make a Plan B?’

It literally had not occurred to me that the venue wouldn’t be falling over themselves to let me do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it, and I think that this is a GOOD THING.

Why you don't need a Plan B

When you set out to do something already having formulated a Plan B, you’re saying to yourself from the very beginning that you’re not sure you can make the Plan A happen. You’re setting yourself a goal and then adding a PS – ‘if I can’t do that, I’d settle for this.’

How can that be good for your motivation or your self-esteem?

That’s not to say that I’m not adaptable. If my original idea doesn’t work out then I don’t fall on the ground in a sobbing mess – I’m flexible and can quickly come up with a new approach that I feel happy with – but if you have that Plan B in your back pocket from the moment you begin, I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours.

Having just one target to concentrate on gives you drive and focus. It doesn’t give you the option to think ‘ah well, I’ll just get this other, easier option out of my pocket and do that instead.’ When I wrote my list of 40 things I wanted to do before I was 40, I didn’t have a back-up list of 40 things I could do if those didn’t work out – I had Plan A and I was good.

I didn’t do them all, and some of my goals shifted, but that happened organically as I went along, not because I had a Plan B in mind from the start. When I added ‘visit every county in England’ to the list I didn’t think ‘if that doesn’t work out I’ll settle for just the counties beginning with the letters A-M’ – where is the challenge in allowing yourself to fail before you even begin?

What do you think? Do you go into new things with a Plan B already in mind?

Do you thrive without a back up plan or does the idea fill you with dread?

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash



  1. 14 January, 2019 / 11:10 pm

    Interesting read. I am a plan B person but really want to be more of a plan A only person, as I think having a plan B is sort of a way of letting yourself off the hook. I am resolving to only have a plan A and focus solely on that. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe if plan A doesn’t materialise despite my best efforts I’ll have to think on my feet quickly for plan B, but I’m sure i can do that!

    • Jo Middleton
      14 January, 2019 / 11:21 pm

      I think that’s the thing – it’s not saying you shouldn’t be able to cope if things don’t work out, I think it’s more about knowing that you ARE flexible and resilient, and so you know you’d cope whatever happened!

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