I distinctly remember the first time I allowed myself to give up on “the plan.” It's a long story that culminates with my family; myself, my wife, and two very young children, stuck in highway traffic in a non-air conditioned car on a very hot summer day heading south, away from the beach.
“The Plan” was to reconnecting with some old friends at a party in the city. We had made a commitment, and, up till that moment, if I committed to doing something, that commitment overruled anything that showed up in my path. It could have been my children's flushed faces, or my own ambivalence, or the occasional sea breeze that could still reach us from the, as yet, not too distance coast. Whatever it was, somehow I was able to let “the plan” go. We pulled off at the next exit, and headed for the Ocean.
Predictability, our friends in the city were understanding. They issued as a rain check and wished us well. I don't remember much about what happened after turning around. It seems the lesson wasn't in what happened next, but in the turning itself.
Since then, “the plan” has lost much of it's power. Rather than a blue print of what will happen, it is a scaffolding around what might. It is a soft story of possibility that lets us figure out what we might want to take along, but it doesn't limit us or prohibit us from changing course along the way.
“The plan” has a way of sneaking back into my life. Like most problems, it likes to connect itself to things that matter to me. It tries to connect itself to ideas like responsibility and letting other people down.
I have found that the best way for me to determine when “the plan” is trying take over is to pause and ponder. If I can stop what I'm doing, take a couple of breathes, notice what's going on around me, and still feel good about my next steps, I will continue on. If, however, I am pulled to put my head down, ignore some of what is happening, and forge ahead, I can be pretty sure “the plan” is working it's magic.
Today, I will be looking out for times when “the plan” tries to take over and blind me from seeing options. I will avoid the seduction of commitments that don't mean anything to anyone but “the plan” and allow my day to find it's way illuminated by the light of the possibilities that arise.