Friday, August 5, 2011

The Folly of Making Plans

I spend a lot of time making plans. Thinking about the future. Thinking that if I do things just right, I can control what's going to happen and fashion the life that I want.

As John Lennon alluded to ("Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"), there are a couple major flaws in this reasoning.

First is the assumption that I can control things. I spend a lot of time making plans that do not come to fruition. I know there's a school of thought that says what we think about is what comes to pass, but I just don't see that in my life. I'll see something I like or think about a new city or a new title and really enjoy myself while building an imaginary scenario of what that might be like and how it would be better than what I have now. But chances are those things are not going to happen. Something completely different is going to happen. And often I'm not prepared for that, good or bad.

Second is that I know what's best for me. I might know what I want in a given moment, but it's pretty clear to me that what I want is not always what is best for me. I'd eat a lot less ice cream if that were the case! The notion that I have enough intelligence to choose what is best for me is a joke. The experiences where I've learned the most are those that have been most difficult, painful, even traumatic. And yet I'm pretty confident that I would not choose those experiences for me in advance. I'd rather have a convertible, or the other trappings of the good life, than the difficulties that seem to make for the grist of true, transformational learning. But life seems to have its own intelligence, presenting me with whatever is needed at the time. I have learned tremendously from that, but didn't plan any of it.

Planning is hard to let go of. And yet when I think about it for more than a few seconds, I see very clearly that planning and life are not very closely related. Sure, there are some things that we can do that might change our future. But often these things, like going to school or taking up running, are about building habits, not about planning.

What's left without planning? Waiting? Doing? Being?

Probably a bit of all three. But it's surprising to me how much space emerges when, even for a little bit, I can let go of my habit of planning.


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