I’ve arrived at the point in my life where I’m almost constantly feeling the pressure of a plan. A plan to catch up with a friend, a plan to service my car, a plan to finally catch my pet mouse, Enzo, who has escaped his cage and been living like he’s on spring break in the apartment for three weeks (we now call him Enzo Houdini). In fact, I can’t remember the last weekend where I didn’t have something planned. It’s exhausting. Isn’t the point of a weekend—in some senses—to pull us back from the daily rigour of our lives so we can wind down and just Be again? Isn’t it important to put aside time with no constraints so we can, for once, feel semi-free?
This got me thinking, what if we just let the plans go? Could we benefit more if we released things from the grip of our daily schedule? Would more opportunity crop up if we let things flow their natural course? How would that affect our relationships?
Basically, are things better left unplanned?
I should first make the point that I recognise how privileged this conversation is. Woe is me! I have to catch up with my mate on the weekend. In fact, it’s so ghastly we may even have to go to a beautiful Italian B.Y.O restaurant together to do the catching up. We’ll have to eat spaghetti vongole and drink oodles of wine amid lovely conversation. Eughk.
But, despite this conversation’s absurdity, plans still have a very real effect on the rhythm of our lives. While having a rhythm is definitely necessary for a fulfilling life, it’s helpful to think about what kind of rhythm is sustainable for, and nourishing of, the varied facets of our beautiful and abundant existence.
We live by our diaries every day. They remind us to meet that person, go to that Pilates class, not forget the dentist, take up Italian lessons, get those test results and contact that old friend. We are constantly submerged in these thoughts and the wells of intention they spring from: intentions about what we aim for in our careers, how we hope to love those we are in relationships with, and above all, who we wish to become.
So if making plans and following them through is about fulfilling our deep-seated intentions, how can we figure out if we’re going the right way about it?
Let’s consider, for a jiffy, what life would be like with no plans:
I ‘spose the article may as well end here, seeing as though I wouldn’t have put aside any time to write it… Okay. So that was a dead end. But what if I wrote it simply when I was inspired to, rather than putting aside time to try to nut-it-out?
This would be effective in the end—I’d get the job done—but the timeframe might not work for the publication I’m writing for. They’ve got their own sh*t to do, and a bunch of great things to get out in the world. Plus they’ve got you guys wanting to munch all their epic content up. (How’s that shameless COH plug!) Munch, munch, munch … One person deciding to abolish planning may be a functional way of living in a ‘state of nature’ (i.e. a world existing without any human society), but we’re social creatures and that means we have to cooperate in tandem with other people and the established rhythms of their lives, whilst also wrangling our own.
Plans are also a significant part of what helps our daily momentum and energy form and keep ticking. If I didn’t have Pilates planned in the morning, I’d sleep in. No question. Instead, I’ve made that plan, so I stick to it. The result of that plan then energises me for the rest of the day, so I can better fulfill the other things I need to do.
We need plans. They’re important. But the crux of this conversation is about how we decide to balance our plans with our time to just Be, and how we can learn what type of balance is going to best help us head for those career, relationship and self-shaping intentions we want to achieve.
The truth of this is that it’s different for each of us. I personally know when I feel overwhelmed by plans. I know when the thought of the weekend feels slightly daunting, rather than the relaxing time I probably need. I know when I begin to operate on a more uptight and anxious rhythm than I would like, because I’m not taking enough time to be kind to myself.
But I still manage to screw it up all the time.
I’m often tired and overextended and I often wish I had a week just to sleep and swim and clean and read and lie under trees. But then when I have the time for that, I make a plan and the imbalance continues to build. This is partly because I have an addictive personality and a penchant for drinking wine with mates, and partly because I’m terrified of disappointing people, but it’s also because there are so many goddamn good people to hang out with and fun things to do (and nice wine to drink, too). But I’m finally learning to say no and cancel a plan when I need to.
That’s what it’s about, really: learning. An incremental understanding of what our hopes and aims are, what our limits are, what our habits are and what we need to do to reinstate some balance.
Our relationships, if they’re true ones, will respect that. Our opportunities, if they’re the right ones for us, will align with that.
So. Would things be better left unplanned? Not really, but sometimes we need to cancel plans and be comfortable with that. Sometimes we even need to plan to have no plans and stick to that. At the end o’tha day, we need to gently learn how to listen to ourselves. We need to listen so we can figure out what our own fertile and nourishing rhythm might be.
I know what I’m doing this weekend—absolutely-bloody-nothing.