I am a planner. Lists, charts, graphs and color coding are a few of my favorite things. When we go on a trip- whether it’s for a long weekend or a full length vacation- I will probably spend a year (or more) planning it. I start thinking about plans for birthday parties months in advance. When I woke up this morning I made a list with my plans for the day. I love making plans.
However, despite all my lists and organization I still consider myself pretty laid back and semi-spontaneous. I don’t freak out when things don’t go according to plan and can easily adjust to last minute changes. If my to-do list doesn’t get completed I’ll just move those things to tomorrow’s to-do list. If we decide going sledding would be more fun than going to the movie we planned to see, I say let’s go!
This is because, while I always have a plan, I rarely have attachments to the outcomes. I generally accept that, even though I may make lots of plans, life is unpredictable and allowing happiness (or even contentment) to hinge upon specific expectations is just not wise.
Why bother to make plans then?
In short, without plans not much gets accomplished.
After my mother-in-law passed away my (now late) father-in-law simply stopped making plans. The two of them had plans the week that she died and those things never happened. He concluded that plans were useless because keeping them is out of our control. When we asked him to do things, even a day in advance, he’s always respond with, “I don’t know, you never know what’s going to happen.” We learned to just make our own plans and to ask him if he wanted to go along at the last minute. This worked pretty well but only because someone else was still making plans even if he wasn’t. He also missed out on some things that absolutely required him to participate in making plans in advance.
He wouldn’t let us buy tickets to take him to see his beloved Cardinals play because you just never know what might be happening on game day. We couldn’t get him pinned down on a date to go visit his sister, who lives out of state. Often he’d pass on opportunities to spend time with his grandkids if we asked him about it too far in advance. There are countless other examples of things he missed because his plans were so wrapped up in expectation that he saw no point in making them. I realize that grief played a large part in his aversion to making plans but I still learned from him that I don’t want my days to be wasted wondering what to do next, trying to figure out how to best to fill my time.
What does it mean to plan without attaching expectations?
A perfect example of this was our trip last year to Walt Disney World. We had a plan. We had a very elaborate plan. I knew the show schedules, wait times of rides at different times of day, layouts of the parks, etc. I painstakingly made touring plans and poured over menus so we could choose places to eat that would have something for everyone. It was a fantastic trip- one of our very best family vacations- and we accomplished SO much because of the research and planning I put into it. But some of the things I had planned just didn’t happen.
We missed a show we’d been looking forward to because of rain. We were more tired than we anticipated so we slept in a couple of times instead of rushing to the parks when they opened. Another show was missed because we wanted to take in the atmosphere instead of rushing to the next thing on our list. But these were all informed choices we were able to make BECAUSE of the plan. Missing the Chinese acrobats at Epcot because we decided to ride a favorite ride one more time is different that strolling up after the performance and discovering that we could have seen it if we hadn’t been staring at a map, trying to figure out what to do next. The plans helped get us there and make the most of our time together but we were flexible enough to realize that having a plan isn’t the same as a plan having us.
So, I make plans. Lots and lots of plans. But I am also be okay with saying, “To hell with it, something else looks better/is more important than this plan.”