For all you planners out there, I’m one too. I grew up in a structured, disciplined family who rarely deviated from The Plan. Thing is, most people don’t have that luxury and when I entered real life, where plans were more fluid, it threw me for a loop. Any change in plans paralyzed me.
Tell me I’m not the only one? Surely there are a lot of us planners out there who don’t do well with a change in the agenda! Anyone who has children (or for that matter, a husband or any other person in their life at all) knows that plans often crash and burn and things don’t go the way we think they will. This is a lesson we should learn in childhood, but for us planners—well, maybe it takes us longer.
I had to learn a little grace, to be flexible and adaptable, to not be a slave to my plans, and to keep a plan B tucked in the back of my mind. Here are a few strategies that helped.
I might. “I might go shopping on Saturday.” “I might go to the beach next summer.” I stopped telling myself all the things I WOULD do, and began holding plans more lightly. I learned to not get my heart set on certain plans. Certainly it’s important to be thoughtful and prudent, especially if our plans affect others, but I needed to learn to be realistic as well. I can’t predict the future, so I needed to learn to see upcoming events in the context of that unknown.
Bigger vision. In my small world, plans had always been huge. Everything was a big deal. I learned to not take my plans so seriously. The world was bigger than my plans and it would not come to an end if those plans needed to change. I learned to see my plans against the grand scheme of life. Would it really matter a year from now if the Christmas menu changed or if we had to unexpectedly run errands today instead of mopping, or if we spontaneously went to lunch with friends instead of doing laundry? Probably not.
Don’t force it. Planners can fail to walk by faith. We can force our lives to conform to our plans without considering whether, perhaps, God is guiding us in a different direction. This rigid way of approaching our plans can get us into trouble. If God wants us to do something else, at the very least we may be missing out on something awesome he wants us to do or receive. At worst, we may walk into a disaster because we are being led by what we want and not letting God talk to us about what he wants. Call me silly, but I believe God talks to us about those things.
Plan B. We don’t want to be slaves to our plan Bs either, but this was key in helping me to change my mindset. We might go to a party tonight–but if we aren’t feeling well enough then I’ll watch a movie and knit instead. We might work in the yard today–but if we can’t get to it, I will clean out the closet. This saved me from lots of disappointment, and it also saved me from hours of sitting around going, “OK, that didn’t work out, now what?” I kept an alternative in the back of my mind so I didn’t get my heart set on just one thing.
Don’t tell the kids. Once we had children, I had to learn a hard lesson. We’d tell them about plans in advance, then something unavoidable would come up (a funeral, illness, rain) and they would be crushed. Of course, as discussed above, they have to learn to deal with disappointment, but life was an emotional roller coaster because they were disappointed too often. I had to remember that we can’t predict the future and as a mom I had to limit the amounts of disappointments I allowed. Now if we are doing something exciting, we tell the kids the day before or the day of, with a qualifier, “We are planning to—if it works out.”
I’m not an excessive planner any more. In fact, if anything, life usually feels like I’m flying down a muddy slope by the seat of my pants, slipping and sliding all the way. I wish sometimes that I could plan a little more—it’s all about balance, isn’t it?
What about you? How do you balance the need to plan and be prudent with the necessity of being flexible?