reprinted with permission (Spring/Summer 2001)
Laurie Mattila, M.S.Ed., Career Counselor
Over the last ten years I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “What I really need is a PLAN” or “I need to KNOW I have a plan.” Usually the very plan being referred to is already organically evolving, or actually exists; it just hasn’t been formally written or acknowledged. And often it feels too vague to be a Real Plan. Although plans can be maps that make it possible for us to go from the idea to the real thing, misused they can undermine our best selves and keep us from the very things we seek. Either way, it’s not the plan that’s the problem —it’s our expectations of it. Very few people on the verge of doing something that genuinely excites and enlivens them are in a position to create a plan and stick with it to completion. At some point the life and energy of their experience needs to take over and carry them across the emotional / spiritual Grand Canyon. Solo. There is no way this part of a journey can be fully anticipated and planned out in flawless detail; it must be improvised in the moment with extreme trust in self and all that has come before, and love for all that is yet to come. At this point, what counts most is vision, not planning. If you can see it, taste it, touch it, love it, desire it—then you can leap toward it, looking ahead with compassion. And you can make a good thing out of the leap, regardless of what you encounter. No matter how detailed or expert the plan, there will be life out there not anticipated and not planned for. So when it happens to you, and I hope it will, your goal needs to be that you trust yourself and the life you’ve been shaping around and within you. Your goal doesn’t need to be that you have the fearless plan to control it all. Do you really want to meticulously follow a plan made months or years ago, when what you desire is to be a vital part of what is happening around you in this very moment?
Questions persist about whether, when, and how much to plan. My simple advice is this: If it needs to turn out a very certain and
controlled way, then plan in detail and try to carry it out. For me this includes things like travel connections, baking, moving,
formal gardens, and public ceremonies. But it doesn’t include most of travel—the fun, discovery, learning, or surprise; or creative
work, backyard gardening, cooking, celebrating, or loving. Planning and accomplishing do go hand in hand; but attention and spontaneity can be alternate routes to the same destination. Having a plan can result in increased confidence to venture forward into something new or desired. Even a few well formulated words written on a piece of paper, or imagined, can offer the initial guidance that gets us moving. And in the very beginning it can remind us to keep on moving. But as the adventure of our own experience begins to unfold, most plans become less useful and need to be inspired, maybe even supplanted, by a living vision. There is no way to know in advance all that will be needed and when. However, our own ever developing instincts and wisdom are capable guides into and through the unknowns of our lives. What a plan is incapable of providing, we already possess. The more we trust ourselves to follow the inner directives of our own lives, the freer we become to follow the life of our own vision, and to live beyond the plan.