[fr] Avoir un plan B nous rassure, mais nous empêche aussi souvent de mettre autant d'énergie qu'il le faudrait dans notre plan A. Parfois, ne pas avoir le choix est une bonne chose.
Being rather pessimistic by nature and risk-averse, I love my backup plans. I really like knowing what I’ll do “if something goes wrong”.
No plan B here!
Photo by Anita Bora, taken on one of our hikes a couple of years ago.
These last ten years as a self-employed professional are no exception. In the back of my mind I’ve always “known” that, if things go awry:
- I have savings I can dip into
- I can borrow money
- I can always “find a job”
- maybe I’ll shack up with somebody who has a stable situation and there won’t be so much pressure on my income anymore.
I have always had the nagging feeling that these backup plans kept me from giving my fullest to the current one, the one I was actually living. Why struggle and work like crazy when it might not be necessary?
Like our modern western world, I like the idea that we are responsible, that the way we lead our life is through choices. We always have a choice. I’ve been brought up to believe that we always choose, even when we think we don’t. I don’t think it was drilled into me on purpose — it just reflects the ambient beliefs of our time. If you say you don’t have a choice, you’re in some ways painting yourself as a hapless victim with less agency than you actually have.
But reality is more complex than that, as all we women of the 60s and 70s who ended up not having children due to the circumstances of life rather than our desire not to have any very well know. (I hope.) Not everything that happens to you is a choice.
Looking at the future (and present) rather than the past, absence of choice can actually be a good thing. Absence of a plan B. A series of recent discussions brought that to light for me: professionally, there isn’t really a plan B for me. In the long run, I need to stay self-employed (more about this in another post at some point). And so I have to make my business more successful than in the past (not just by wishful thinking, there is a lot of work to be done, actually — more about that in another post).
Saying “I have to do this” is, again, something I’ve been taught to avoid. Because it makes one powerless to have to do something, rather than want, choose, decide. But an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain presents research that points to another phenomenon: if we have a fallback plan, our motivation or drive to make our main plan succeed diminishes.
Not having a choice can actually be an advantage!
This might be one reason I like action/thriller movies, in which characters very often have no choice but to do what they are doing. Trying to stay alive or save the world definitely gives one a sense of purpose, something I sometimes feel I am lacking in my life.
There could also be a link to my love of physical activities like skiing, sailing, judo, kitesurfing, and even cycling and driving: when you’re moving or in action, you have to do what you have to do, or you can hurt or even kill yourself. In that moment, there is no backup plan. Come to think of it, that is true of public speaking too, though there is of course no physical danger there.
- Isolation, Shame, and Guilt. And Grief. [en] (2016)
- Crossroads [en] (2001)
- Changes in the World, Changes in Us [en] (2022)
- Too Much News? [en] (2016)
- Blogs Can Hurt Reputations [en] (2005)
- Sometimes We Need Pseudonyms [en] (2012)
- Income Map Template [en] (2009)
- Here Comes Everybody: Journalism and Ease of Publication [en] (2013)
- Why I Get My Flu Shot Each Year [en] (2017)
- “I Will Adapt” [en] (2023)