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Many of my readers are really struggling right now. Loss of work, lack of direction, confusion.

I had a chance to coach someone recently who was sensing this quite profoundly. Confined to his house, without work prospects, he’s finding it hard to move forward in any useful direction.

But here’s the thing: he’s actually been given a gift.

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Leading in business is about planning. Creating plans, executing plans, and monitoring progress against those plans.

Here’s the problem: creating plans is about the future, then everything after that is about living in the past.

When are we ever in the present? Here’s why that’s important:

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This should be an easy question to answer, right? You’re the boss, so you’re steering the ship!

But there’s a good chance that when I listen to you, I’m hearing you mention a lot of other people. The employee who called in sick. Those customers who just keep demanding. The weather. The government.

I get it, I really do. It feels like I’m just a tiny boat on the water, at the mercy of anything and everything.

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Maybe you’ve been discouraged because the better future you’ve been hoping for still doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.

At some point, though, you’re going to have to make it happen. It’s going to take focused, intentional effort. That’s what it means to be a leader.

I was thinking about this because of my recent health scare. Thankfully, I survived this time due to the talent of some great doctors. But it got me pondering the larger questions in my life.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if plans always worked? But they don’t.

The problem, of course, is that Reality continues to do what it wants, despite the best planning. It sure would be nice if the rest of the world lined up the way I want, but rarely does it work out that way.

So why bother? Why not just spend every moment just responding to whatever’s thrown my way, with all the cleverness and energy I can muster?

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I can get stuck in planning things, and perhaps you can as well. It’s a way to attempt to control risk.

It builds your confidence to make a decision and start moving. At least you hope it does.But here’s the secret: The confidence actually comes after achieving something. Even if you can envision something, it’s not really confidence. It’s hope.

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Here we are, staring down the barrel of a new year. Fresh and shiny and unspoiled like the newfallen snow.

I find it really helpful to focus on the opportunity, to use this as a chance to be optimistic. If that leads you toward making resolutions or reviewing your plan, wonderful!

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WE’D LIKE TO THINK that planning takes away all the risk. But as soon as I say that, you know it’s not true.

The world is changing. People are unpredictable. And … stuff happens.

So, while planning is useful and necessary, it doesn’t remove all the risk. So why bother?

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PLANNING IS FANTASTIC, but it has one big problem:

Reality gets in the way.

You go to all this work to create the fully robust plan, to get everyone on board, even to test various scenarios. It’s wonderful! But the plan was put in a binder on the shelf, never to be opened again.

Why is that?

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HERE’S AN INTERESTING THOUGHT: In the mountains, the haze lies in the valley. To see further, you have to hike up.

It’s a wonderful metaphor for business.

Yes, you have to get down in the details; that’s where the progress is made. But it’s quite possible that you’re going in circles down there, so you have to pull yourself out occasionally to look at the big picture.

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