Don’t Make That Back-Up Plan

I love a Plan B, and sometimes it’s absolutely necessary.

But sometimes Plan B is a way of copping out, of giving ourselves a way to not do the hard work. And here’s the truth about a Plan B—if you know it’s there, you’re going to use it. 

Using notes for a speech are the poster child for a security blanket masquerading as a Plan B. I was coaching someone recently who clutched her notes like a person on a life raft, and she used them even for the first part of her speech—the part that is nothing but her own biographical material.

I pointed out that she didn’t need to glance at the notes to remember her own name and job title, and she hadn’t realized that she looked at her notes at all. This Plan B turns quickly into Plan A—let me just look at what I wrote down; I feel safer. 

When my husband Charlie and I got married, we decided to memorize our vows rather than repeat them after the minister. For weeks before the wedding, I said these vows out loud—while I was running errands, walking the dog, in the shower. The whole vow is about fifty words, two of which were my name and my husband’s, but I was terrified that I’d forget something, or freeze, and the words would leave my mind entirely.

On the morning of our wedding, at a breakfast held for all our guests, I took Charlie aside. “I think this is a bad idea,” I said. “I think we should have the minister say the vows and we’ll repeat them.” And Charlie, steady as a rock, said, “You are going to be fine. I’ll be there with you.”

And he was right. With no Plan B, the words came, full and present, expressing my love and commitment.  Taking the first breath to say the words, “I, Angie, take you, Charlie…,” I felt like I was letting go of a trapeze, not sure what would happen next. Would I remember? Would the words be there? I remember the feeling–like flying and wondering if I would catch the next trapeze, or fall.

And then the rest of the vow was right there, just as I had practiced it, catching me and bringing me to the other side. No intermediary, no reminders, no notes, no nudges.

Plan B is great when it means you’ve got that back-up battery for your flashlight. But if your Plan B is really a security blanket, leave it aside and take the leap.

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