The Backup Plan--How It Can Derail Your Success

The Backup Plan–How It Can Derail Your Success

My recently graduated college girl called me the other day to talk about her career plan. She knows exactly what she wants to do, and she has outlined the path she plans to take to get there. She’s chosen a career in one of the most highly competitive fields on the planet, and she has a good grip on reality and what kind of effort it’s going to take to get her there. This girl has done her homework and she is ready to put her plan into action.

And then she said something that surprised me.

talking on the phone about the backup plan

She said, “I am really happy with this plan but I don’t have my backup plan figured out and I need to work on it.”

I thought about that for a minute.

“Do you think you aren’t going to make it?”

“I have no doubts, Mom. This is what I was born to do.”

“Then why do you need a backup plan?”

She told me that her major advisor and course counselors told her that her chosen career path was a challenging one so she should have a backup plan because it might not work out.

That got me thinking. I’ve heard this many times throughout my life. I remember being told the same thing when I was in college. I frequently hear about the importance of a Backup Plan.

Backup Plans Have Their Place

Backup plans aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding or a garden party, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. After all, outdoor weddings aren’t so much fun in the rain.

If you have a computer, you definitely need to have a backup plan—a plan for backing up your data so you don’t lose it when your hard drive crashes. You can read more about data backup plans here.

But a backup plan for your life and your dreams? No!

There is a growing body of evidence that having a backup plan can actually hinder your success.

Will You Follow Your Plan A or Plan B

Don’t Let Your Plan B Become Your Plan A

A backup plan means that you aren’t confident in your “Plan A.” It can mean that maybe you’re not fully invested in that big dream. After all, having multiple plans is giving yourself an out.

We’ve often heard that you end up where you put your focus and your energy. If you’re trying to focus on both your big dream, and on a just-in-case plan, where’s your focus?

In order to make your dreams come true, you need to put all of your energy toward that goal. Creating a backup plan at the same time divides your energy and your focus into two different goals. And dividing your focus is building failure right into the equation. In fact, just making a Plan B may lead you to put less effort into Plan A. You may end up not achieving either your primary plan or your backup plan.

So, stop worrying about your backup plan. Stop telling yourself that maybe you aren’t going to reach your goal. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can.

And then go to work and make it happen.

That’s the advice I gave my college student.  She has a good plan. She doesn’t need another one. Plan A is going to take every bit of attention and focus that she has. I have no doubt that her big life plan will come to pass. And neither does she.

Do you need some help creating your plan? Download my free Goal Setting Success Kit Here, and get started on the path to your dream life today.

This post was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2023.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Evan Fraser says:

    Very interesting point. There is definitely something to be said for the “burn the ships” approach.

    I think as long as you are ready and willing to adapt there is no need for a plan B.

    1. Marie Leslie says:

      I think being able to adapt is key to success in life for sure. If you can’t roll with it, life’s going to be a lot harder. Thanks for your comments, Evan.