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When to Forget About Putting All Your Ducks in a Row

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tundraswans by firda on flickr

tundraswans by firda on flickr

If you find yourself many weeks into planning a project, you may well be on target toward your goal. You may well be doing the detail planning and rehearsing that will ensure your success. But while putting your ducks in a row is a popular metaphor for making preparations and sounds like the right thing to do, it may not be a good idea.

Here are three times when you should forget about putting your ducks in a row.

When you are putting off taking action on something that you’ll have many opportunities to revise and refine later.

Two decades before I bought my first computer, I researched and asked questions of everyone I knew who owned one. I closely studied features, benefits and costs.

When I made my third round to the same friend with another pile of questions, she said wearily, “Just jump in and buy one. You’re going to replace it in a few years anyway.”

I had not realized until that moment that whatever computer I chose would just be the first of many. I was treating this purchase as if was going to be a one-time event.

It seems silly now, but until that moment I was stuck.

Now I was finally able to move forward.

When you are building up a lot of fear over losing something before you even get it

I once operated a home-based tutoring program that I wanted to move to a commercial building where I would have more room and could schedule multiple activities at one time.

I found the perfect building. It was about 14 blocks from my house and I passed it on the way to drop my youngest at preschool. It was brick with its own parking lot, and was already decorated and furnished thanks to the decorator/chiropractor couple who once owned it.

But fear set in, and for good reason. I was not savvy about real estate negotiations and didn’t have big bucks for a down payment.

When I went on a walk-through I fell in love. It had an eleven-seat waiting room, a glassed-in reception area, a large office with a skylight and down the long hall were rooms on each side that would be perfect for small classrooms.

There was a kitchen, two restrooms and at the end of the hall a large room for conferences or other events.

Again I was gripped by fear, but I bought a book called How Not to Get Taken Every Time and set out to negotiate for the building.

Normally I was the one in our marriage who was surefooted, but this time I was equally as afraid as my husband. As we got closer to the possibility of actually becoming the new owners something entered my mind that quieted my fears.

We didn’t have the building, and if we were able to get it and through some unfortunate turn of events lost the building we’d be right back where we currently were. We wouldn’t have the building again.

That was an amazingly freeing realization.

We proceeded to buy the building and kept it for two years until I decided to close the tutoring program.


When you are putting in a lot of planning for something you deep down don’t want to do

When I closed my tutoring program I thought I wanted to offer educational seminars. In my usual manner I began researching, reading and attending seminars.

I made notes and drafted plans for many months.

Finally one day I caught myself sighing when I was looking over my plans for my educational seminars. That’s when it hit me that I had no enthusiasm for this project.

It had seemed like a good idea years before, but it clearly wasn’t where I was being lead at that time.

Wow! I could stop lining up those ducks toward this goal and reassess my direction.

Did you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios? If so, forget about putting your ducks in a row and instead take more action, risk failure and check in with your enthusiasm to be sure you’re headed for a passionate interest.

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