Are you a planner? Are you flexible in life? Is it possible to be both?
I used to plan everything. I had a Master Plan for my life, and bunch of small plans just for the small stuff. I had plans B, C and D, just in case my plan A didn’t go as planned.
I tried calculating every single risk, and take measures before they would happen. I would call myself a person with positive life outlook, but my family jokes that I could also write a book “1001 Ways to Die.” And they are right. I’ve always thought person can not be too prepared, or too educated. I’ve just tried to eliminate every single risk of anything bad ever happening, you know, so I could focus on having fun.
I think some people would call the type of person I used to be a “control freak.” This post is to all of my control freak friends out there. I feel you, and I hear you, but now it’s the time to hear me out.
Several years ago I was talking with someone, and going casually over my plans A, B, C and D of something in life. Just explaining that if things didn’t go right on the first try, I was planning on trying something else. He said something that changed my life.
“Wow, I have never met someone as flexible as you are,”
he said, and it took me by the biggest surprise.
No, “flexible” was not one the words people would usually use to describe me.
And then it hit me – life is always a gamble, no matter how you play it. You never truly know what is going to happen, and me trying to prepare for it was being flexible.
It was saying “no matter what happens, I will be OK. I will always think of something, I will always make the best out of it.”
And that’s exactly what I had done.
I started looking back to my life for the times I had played it safe, and executed my plan perfectly. Some of decisions I had made based on how I had calculated them to be the safest, smartest choices, had resulted in some of the worst situations in my life. Most of my plans had actually not worked out at all on the end, even when they had gone perfectly as planned. I hadn’t even known what I really wanted out of life, and I had no idea what would happen when you would say “yes” to some of the “not so smart” opportunities life presented you.
For example, taking a year off college the last year of college was the best worst decision I had ever made. Instead of working hard to try to graduate, I moved out of the country to figure out what I wanted in life. I met my husband, and life gave me so much more than I could have ever even dreamed of with him, including three children. My Master Plan in fact looked something completely different than what my life ended to be. And Thank God!
Being called “flexible” was the best gift I received. I started being more open doing things not as planned, and not feeling guilty about it. I started taking even more risks, and saying “yes” to things that were not pre-planned, calculated and part of my Master Plan C. I started seeing how you needed both in life: the ability to plan and prepare, but also the ability to take the opportunities when life gives them. I started finally let go of the guilt for all of those crazy decisions I had made, like moving out of my country.
I started realizing that being flexible and having guts to go against the grain, was being open for the unimaginable in life, and truly living life to the fullest.
Does the life planning really work for some of you?
I have nothing against planning, and I highly recommend life planning. However, my biggest obstacle in life really hasn’t been figuring out how to get what I want. My biggest question always reminds “what I really want”.
We are taught when we are young that life should go certain way, (go to school, get a job, find the one, get married, buy house, have kids…) and our society expects you to want your life to follow the typical path of “a perfect life.” I don’t think I was ever taught to dream beyond that. I was taught to be a good girl, be smart, sensible and not “do crazy things.” Around 12 years ago I asked my father when he and my mom were coming to visit us in New York, and he said when our life calms down a little bit. I was horrified of the thought of “life calming down” and said we would always think of something! The “crazy things” were the best parts of my life!
I was also horrified of living the “then, when” life. My life didn’t have to follow the “path of a perfect life,” I didn’t have to wait to get married, get children, travel the world, I could do it right when I wanted to do it, if the opportunity was there. And that’s what I have done.
It drives me nuts that people are trying for example to plan the best timing to have a baby like they were scheduling an appointment. There is never right time to have a baby, and at the same time anytime is the right time to have a baby. With this I mean that if you are not ready to have a baby right now, you will think of hundred reasons why now is not a good time. And if you are ready to have a baby, it doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you have, how your career is going, but you will be ready to have a baby, and it will be the biggest blessing in your life. I mean, it is not about timing, it is about what you truly want.
When you see yourself thinking “I will do this, when…” ask yourself why can’t you do it right now? If that is truly something you want in life, why not do it right now? How many stories you need to hear how someone saved their entire life to travel the world/build the dream house/retire/learn to skydive only to realize it was too late and it was never going to happen. Do not say no to amazing things you want in life, just because they are not coming to you in the order you want, or exactly as you planned. Life does not go as planned, so take the opportunities when they come! And if you truly don’t want to have kids/travel the world/build the dream house, it is perfectly fine too.
10 Questions to ask yourself now about your life
What about you? Your time to ask these questions from yourself.
1. Do you make plans? Short term, long term?
2. Has your life happened as you planned?
3. What has gone exactly as you planned?
4. What unexpected things you have experienced that you never even thought of planning or dreaming for your life?
5. What obstacles you’ve had that you could not foresee?
6. Are you flexible? Are you comfortable not doing things as planned and open for new opportunities as they arise?
7. How are you finding balance between making plans for life and being open for opportunities that arise?
8. What are the things in life you want to accomplish, experience and do?
9. How are you making those dreams reality? Are you committed to them every day or are you just waiting that they will/might happen?
10. What can you do today that you were planning on doing tomorrow?
And bonus: write a list of all of those crazy amazing once-in-a-lifetime things you have done in your life that you never thought you’d do. But you did anyways.