A few years ago, I struggled with a constant, nagging feeling that I wasn’t actually living my life. I didn’t have the community connection I craved and week after week would pass looking exactly like the one before. I had this deep-seated fear that everyone was experiencing fulfillment that I could never quite tap into.
So I became attached to the art of planning.
If things weren’t going to happen spontaneously for me – as I was convinced they did for everyone else – I would make a valiant effort to fill my calendar and say “yes” far more often than I said no. I imagined my future to be filled with realized goals, and I created smaller plans to fill larger plans.
For all intents and purposes, it worked. I was busier than I ever had been in my life, doling out chunks of time left and right because I wanted my life to be brimming with, well, life.
Having a plan gave me direction, predictability and the reassurance that I was moving towards something I could feel good about.
But what happens when the plan we’ve created isn’t the one in the cards for us?
In my last position, I started to feel this persistent itch of boredom and a gradual drain of fulfillment around the two-year mark. These feelings weren’t in the plan. I attempted to shift my attitude, believing I was experiencing an overall life-burnout that was driving this unhappiness at work.
Then, in a conversation with a friend, a no-filter moment found me saying this, “Every time I walk into the office I feel dead inside.”
And clearly, there’s no coming back from that sentiment.
It wasn’t in my long-term plan to ditch a steady and more-than-enough paycheck to pursue the hazy and hard-to-define goal of freedom. In fact, if someone would have told me a year ago to consider adding that into my plan, I would have laughed. That’s not concrete enough for me.
But believing we can always create the best plan for ourselves is ignorant at best.
I have the not-so-attractive quality of believing my way is the best way to get things done. When I was faced with a group project in school, I would often take over the entire thing because I felt that was the best way to create a cohesive final product. Not only did this disregard the talents of the other people in my group, but it left me with a ridiculously heavy workload.
In the same type of I-know-best fashion, I have come to believe the plan I carve out for myself is the absolute best-case scenario. But is that really the case?
If I would have followed through with my plan and what I deemed the “best case scenario” five years ago, I would be in a miserable marriage with a man who didn’t love or respect me in the way I deserved.
Thankfully there was a much grander plan that I would have never had the ability to piece together from my limited vantage point.
That’s the key: sometimes we can’t see the bigger picture from where we’re standing. We can’t create the best plan possible because we don’t know what will enter our path a week, a month, or a year from now.
So sometimes a plan is not having a plan or trusting that the perfect plan just hasn’t revealed itself yet.
Waking up without a set schedule and a workload that’s fluid, I’m learning something important about creating a plan: it’s not all about taking action. Sometimes it’s far more beneficial to listen and wait to be guided to the perfect next step by feeling. This is how we can allow ourselves to let the perfect plan reveal itself, instead of muscling it into fruition.
And, it’s always good to remember — sometimes the plan you spent time perfecting just wasn’t that great to begin with.