The best-laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.” – Robert Burns, 1785
An entrepreneur starts a business with specific plans after spending hours on end perfecting it, but ultimately diverts the attention to something else. A student resolves to spend time studying for a few hours every evening, only to end up watching the sports channel. A woman who is on a low-budget, decides to buy a small gift for someone, but ends up buying an atrociously expensive one only to regret it later. So what’s happening to these people?
When we think about it, we realize that we’ve gone through this too. This happens to most of us at some point. I’m sure you can recollect experiences where you were shopping to buy something and end up picking up an entirely different thing.
There were instances where I felt bad at having made wrong decisions and wondered why this happens to me. Why do I drop my plans and do things that I haven’t planned? Why do I do things that I feel bad about later?
“When I first started acting, I started in opera and had a great desire to play grand, tragic characters. I got sidetracked in musical theater and ended up doing a lot of comedy.” – Leslie Easterbrook.
Our finely developed plans take a backseat and we behave differently. It can be anything from a new business to a diet we wanted to follow. While there may be some whose diversions have led them to success, most of the time the results can be sabotaging, discouraging and baffling.
Does that mean we’re not smart, strong-willed, competent individuals? We do care about working hard and following through on our goals, we spend days on end perfecting our plans and we know we are determined to succeed, but the best of our intentions often steer us off the main track.
Why does this happen and what can we do to stop this from happening to us again and again?
Influences! We get influenced by what we see and hear. We get influenced by our own emotions. Even simple factors can have a major impact on our decisions, diverting us from the original plans.
Author Francesca Gino, in her book Sidetracked, gives an appropriate example:
She talks about the 1991 movie “Defending Your Life” by Alfred Brooks. There is a scene in the movie where Daniel Miller (Brooks’s character), is preparing to negotiate for a better pay with his boss. He decides to only accept a pay of $65,000 or more, and determines to accept nothing less. He comes up with a negotiation plan and practices the situation with his wife and sticks to his plan even with all the diversions his wife throws at him. Finally, the time comes for the real negotiation. The first offer from his boss was $49,000. Daniel accepts it without thinking twice about it. Reason? He forgot to take into consideration the “anxiety factor” that wasn’t there with his wife, but raised its ugly head when he was with his boss.
So who influenced Daniel Miller? His own emotions! Our emotions sidetrack us from implementing what we set out to. While on the topic, I suggest you watch this film (if you haven’t), this is an enjoyable “after life” story you might enjoy
We live in such an instant world that it’s far easier to get diverted, rather than slow down and think. There are many “accidental entrepreneurs” who have started out with a plan and got sidetracked into a different business they run now. Some are successful but not everyone is as fortunate.
“Don’t get sidetracked. If you do get sidetracked, get back on track as soon as possible. Ultimately sidetracking kills you.” – Donald Trump
Donald Trump has always talked about the negative effects of getting side tracked by less important tasks and to focus on the goal, as ultimately sidetracking stops us.
After years of life experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possible to remain on the path we initially set out on, without looking at other tracks. When diversions knock on your door, you have to learn to say “no” to them.
Emotions play a major part in us getting sidetracked, whether the influencing factors are external or internal. Before making any decision, look at what you’re feeling.
If you desperately want to do something that’s not in the plan, ask yourself why. What is compelling you to take that action? Is it pure impulsiveness? Is it social comparisons? The latter makes us do things we haven’t planned.
You chose a niche you’re passionate about and created a business plan. You’re on your way, when suddenly you see someone else who’s in the same niche as you, doing very well. The fact that they seem to be doing better in a shorter time makes you feel depressed. You look at what they’re doing and find that they’re using Adwords, while you’ve decided to go with SEO and other free methods because you don’t have enough budget for Adwords. You still go ahead and start an Adwords campaign only to run out of money in no time, without accomplishing anything. That hurts, especially when you’re on a tight budget. All your plans come to a stop as you now can’t spend on the basic expenses of paying for hosting or getting that Facebook fan page done.
Social comparisons can lead to irrational behaviors and can get you side tracked. No two people are in a similar situation; although the business they’re into may be the same. The same goes with shopping. Many times we end up buying things just to stay on top of the social ladder, even when going through a rough patch in life.
By understanding your emotions and the factors that have the potential to get us off track, it’s possible to stick to the original plan with a single-minded focus and reach the goals you’re happy with.
I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t make decisions for the betterment of one’s life. But in business, where you have to be an inspiration for your team, you have to always be focused on your goal and push you team mates to do better.
Even the well-laid out plans go awry and we can only plan for the future, not for the outcome. But the tendency to get sidetracked usually leads to failure. We should learn to first understand the enemy within ourselves, which works subconsciously to stop things from getting done. It’s only then can we fight back and stay on the course.
When was the last time you got sidetracked?
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