In his book The 48 Laws of Power
, author Robert Greene writes that most people think short-term and are ruled by their heart, not their head.
They’re often locked in the current moment, their future plans are vague, and when they meet obstacles they improvise. Unfortunately, “improvisation will only bring you as far as the next crisis.”
For Greene, the solution to this myopia is to pause, take a more strategic perspective and “plan all the way to the end”: Will this action have unintended consequences? Will I encourage new opponents? Will someone else take advantage of my efforts?
When you see several moves ahead, you won’t be as tempted by emotion or the desire to improvise: “Your clarity will rid you of the anxiety and vagueness that are the primary reasons why so many fail to conclude their actions successfully.”
In an interview
on The Knowledge Project
podcast, Greene calls this tendency to be locked in the moment “tactical hell.”
For example, say your company is in a battle with a rival for market share: “If you keep reacting to what your opponent is giving you in this rivalry to get market share, your mind never rises high enough above the battlefield to come up with a reasonable plan that actually is more strategic, and involves things that aren’t just reactions.”
Planning all the way to end is powerful because it forces you to think longer-term.
Greene acknowledges that regardless of how much you plan, the future remains uncertain. But most people suffer less from over-planning and rigidity than from vagueness and a tendency to improvise constantly in the face of circumstances.
As he puts it, “If you are clear- and far-thinking enough, you will understand that the future is uncertain, and that you must be open to adaptation. Only having a clear objective and a far-reaching plan allows you that freedom.”