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Today’s post is from a big thinker on human development and potential, Shawn Thomas, M. Ed., M.S., who also happens to be my wonderful husband.  He’s written a very interesting article about what it takes to change your behavior, and the struggle between our internal “planner” vs. “do-er.”

The Planner vs. the Do-er, by Shawn Thomas


We all have some aspect of our work, our lives, or ourselves that we think falls short. In these situations, it is important to know that to be successful at creating the change we desire, we must do two things:  create a plan and take action.

In their book, Nudge,  about decision making, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein describe the planner and the doer. The planner and the doer exists within each of us. As an example, the authors describe the planner as the part of us that sets the alarm clock at night with the intent of getting up early in the morning to exercise. The doer is the part of us that in the morning either hits the snooze button 4 times, or gets us out of bed to implement the planner’s plan.

Many of us have set our alarm again and again with great intentions only to have our sleepy doers foil our attempts to do something good for ourselves. And all of us tend to blame our doers for this lack of well-intentioned action. It is our doers, after all, that are ineffective at getting us out of that nice, warm bed and into our running shoes or the gym. It seems like the doer is at fault when we fail at implementing our plans and achieving our goals. But the real problem may lie with the planner. Any successful leader or manager can tell you that motivation is one of the most important keys to getting things done. In addition, they will tell you that part of their job is understanding exactly what motivates each of their employees. Therefore, one very important part of our planner’s job is to understand what will motivate our doer to take action. And this is especially true in situations where the action to be taken is challenging.

Let’s go back to the example of getting out of bed early enough to exercise before work and add an example of motivation. Getting out of bed to exercise in the morning can be especially difficult for anyone who is unaccustomed to the gym. One of the most significant barriers to exercise is a lack of experience or knowledge. Knowing that we may lack the sufficient experience or knowledge to feel comfortable using the gym equipment provides us with a good indicator of the motivation necessary to get us to the gym. In this case it would be best for us to have a plan in place to meet with a personal trainer who can guide us through the exercises that provide the best chance of helping us meet our goals. With the added motivation of having a knowledgeable personal trainer waiting to provide us with assistance, and the commitment we made to meet them there, we stand a much better chance of getting ourselves out of that comfortable bed.

Take some time to think about things that you would like to change. Identify in each case the work currently being done by your internal planner and doer. More than likely, if you identify things you’ve wanted to change for some time but have not found success at doing so, you have identified a problem for your planner to solve. Your next step then is to identify some things that will ensure that your doer has the proper motivation to take the right actions and get things done. Once you have identified the proper motivation, make completely sure that it is incorporated into your plans and you will soon find that you are finally making progress toward achieving your goals.

Thanks for reading!

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