Inside looking out: To plan or not to plan
“So what’s your plan?”
“I’m going to make a lot of money, marry my sweetheart, and then buy a farmhouse down South on 100 acres.”
“Very nice! Anything else?”
“Sure. Raise kids. Hunt and fish and live each day as if it’s my last.”
“Wow! That’s a great plan.”
“How about you?”
“Oh, I don’t make plans for myself anymore. Every day I wake up and I wait for something to happen that needs my attention. That’s pretty much my life. Drive my kids somewhere. Fix a problem. Work some hours. I have a schedule of things to do each day that just seems to fall in place hour by hour.”
Life is often scripted into a need and react formula. When the kids need to be picked up at school, you drive and get them. The grass grows tall so you cut the lawn. More money is necessary so you work extra hours.
Most of the time, a day’s plan to do what you want for yourself is interrupted by family obligations and job duties.
American journalist Allen Saunders once said, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
So you go with the flow.
Writer Leo Babauta believes that planning for the future is pointless. “The idea behind all of this is that you can’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now, because you don’t know who you’re going to be, what you’ll be able to do, what you’ll be passionate about, who you’ll meet, what opportunities will come up, or what the world will be like. But you do know this: if you are prepared, you can do anything you want.”
He says to prepare yourself by learning about your mind, becoming trustworthy, building things, overcoming procrastination, and getting good at discomfort and uncertainty.
Getting good at discomfort and uncertainty is certainly difficult for many people. We live in a highly stressed world filled with anxieties and worries. You plan for things to go the way you want, but they often do not. You might fill your mind with worst-case scenarios instead of best possible outcomes. You live in fear of failure so you try to build a safety zone that you will not step outside its boundaries in order to take a risk or explore an opportunity.
Babauta warns that you can stay in your safety zone and live a life of boredom or you can start knocking down your walls of protection today, and see what life has to offer.
This brings back the idea that planning anything for yourself can be a waste of time because you are overburdened by your responsibilities to your jobs and to your families. Now, doing for your kids and significant others is rewarding in its own right, but that still leaves you with an emptiness and unsatisfied feeling inside. There’s no time left for you, and even if there was, you’re too exhausted to do anything with it.
Best-selling author Paul B. Brown writes, “Most of us prepared hard for the future we expected, and yet when it comes to our life today things aren’t working out as we had planned. That’s true if you have been laid off; are a recent college graduate who is underemployed; a manager who feels that he is stuck in his current position. This is not how we were told it was going to be. Growing up we were led to believe that the future was predictable enough and if we studied hard we could obtain the work we wanted in an environment we understood, and we would live happy and successful lives. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.”
The importance of sustaining individual goals and following dreams cannot be overemphasized.
Twentieth century American author Wilferd Peterson wrote, “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
So that’s the plan! Leave this world better than when you found it. Make one person smile today. Say thank you every day. Visit an elderly friend who lives alone. Call a relative whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. Play a game with a child. Pick up litter by the lake. Cook dinner for a neighbor. Buy a concert ticket for someone who’s been struggling with depression and take him to the show.
When you’re done making the world a better place, you’ll feel revived in spirit.
Then you can plan to do something wonderful for yourself and let nothing get in the way to stop you from doing it.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.