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Are You Putting the Cart
Before the Horse?

Mackenzie Quote

"Action without planning is the cause of every failure." Alec Mackenzie, time management expert

Last year, my husband and I hiked a mile-and-a-half down the South Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon. We planned and trained for almost a year. When the day arrived, we had the right boots and equipment, and enough food and water to sustain us. Unfortunately, many people on the trail hadn't had the same foresight.

There are warnings all over the park and at the trailhead about how much water a hiker needs. But sadly, many hikers we saw took only a fraction of the water they needed. We witnessed several people in distress due to dehydration: weak, tired or dizzy. A family fought over their child's small bottle of water, because they'd already drunk their allotment. Two women hiked the dirt and rock trail, that was hundreds of feet above the canyon floor, in high heels. One turned ankle in the wrong place could have been disastrous.

These visitors let their enthusiasm overrun their common sense. Instead of thinking ahead, they impetuously jumped into an experience and suffered for it. Fortunately, most Grand Canyon visitors survive with just blisters, sore muscles and a headache from dehydration. But they could have avoided those consequences if they'd just heeded the warnings and considered what they'd need for a safe hike.

Unfortunately, many people act in a similar way when they get an idea. They leap into action before they even know what to do. In our Western culture, action is idolized. Supposedly, if you just take action, any action, you'll be successful. Action is considered a panacea and always brings you results, so the thought goes. But how many people do you know who are so busy that they barely have a personal life, but they're not achieving their goals?

Have you ever seen a skyrocket firecracker flying through the air? It spirals all over the place because it has thrust, but no guidance system. Most of the time, it goes up to explode in a beautiful display, but there are occasions when it swirls down to the ground and sets something on fire. This is what it's like when you jump into action before developing a plan. You're probably going to go up, but you don't have any control over your direction. And you also have a good chance of crashing and burning.

The same is true if you have a plan, but you don't know where you want to end up. If you have no vision, it's like throwing darts at a target while blindfolded. You don't know where your target is, so you waste your energy and ammunition. This happens if you have a marketing plan, before you settle on a niche. You spray the consumers with information, but because it's not aimed properly, it's ineffective. Instead, you need to find the right people for your product or service then spend your energy on connecting with them.

There are times when jumping into action, without a plan, can be helpful. But it has to be strategic. You want to build up some momentum, stir up some information, gain clarity or some other specific reason. Doing that is a plan in itself. You know the results you want from your actions.

Conversely, you need to keep from getting stuck in the planning process. Your plan isn't going to ever be perfect. You'll tweak it along the way. And there will be times when it will change completely, as you get feedback or knowledge. Making progress is better than perfecting your plan.

When you've decided to create something new in your life, be intentional about it. Don't "Put the cart before the horse." Keep your priorities straight and make sure you have some sort of plan. Life can be treacherous and catch you off guard. If you're going for a trek in unfamiliar territory, isn't it a good idea to heed the warnings, make sure you have the right equipment and plenty of resources to sustain you? This isn't just good advice for the Grand Canyon, but also for every area of your life. Make sure your horse draws your cart, and you'll make faster progress.

Copyright © 2009-2018 Linda Ann Stewart
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As a vision strategist, hypnotherapist, and speaker, Linda-Ann Stewart helps women entrepreneurs who feel stuck, immobilized and overwhelmed to gain clarity, focus, and get back in control so they're able to accelerate to the next level of their business. Sign up for her FREE guide, "Take Control of Your Day," at can contact her at or 928-600-0452.

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