Have you ever volunteered to be harnessed by a straight jacket? I know that I haven’t. In fact, I hope to never be trapped into such a claustrophobic experience. As far as I’m concerned, a straight jacket should be called an “I’m-going-to-go-crazy” jacket.
Sometimes, when thinking about the idea of a Life Plan, it feels like a similarly constricting idea. I believe the internal monologue goes something like this: “Oh boy, a life plan! It will let me limit my choices, miss out on serendipitous opportunities, take all the fun out of life, and make me want to poke needles in my eye every day!”
Let’s look at this objection carefully. As we do so, remember that we’ve already noted the tremendous benefits of a life plan (see parts 1, 2, 3, and 4!). If we can find a fair way of dealing with this objection, it is certainly in our interests to do so.
If Only A Life Plan Did Limit Me…
Part of the benefit of a life is that it helps you set wise boundaries: here’s what I’m committed to doing, here’s where I need to regularly say no.
But in my experience, the hardest part of using a life plan is actually following through! Keeping New Year Resolutions is always hard; keeping to a life plan on a daily or weekly basis is certainly harder.
So let’s not congratulate ourselves too prematurely. Having a life plan will not automatically give you the self-discipline of a Navy SEAL. The real challenge comes from keeping to the life plan. Deviating from the plan, when necessary, will likely be far easier.
A Life Plan doesn’t make us rigid people. That’s something we do to ourselves.
Still, if you’re really worried about the limits, just put something like “Stay spontaneous” or “Don’t miss out on the unexpected joys” into your Life Plan. You can have your cake and eat it too.
They Can Always Change
Earlier this year, two major events came together. One was expected, the other was unexpected: having a baby and co-editing a book. Publishing the book True Reason was actually the unexpected project. On the other hand, we had a pretty good sense that a baby was about to arrive. The work for the book has largely come and gone, but everything else has certainly changed by adding a new member to our household!
So what happened? Did I rigidly keep to my old Life Plan, steadfastly ignoring the opportunity to work on True Reason and absolutely refusing to spend time with my daughter? After all, neither of them were mentioned as priorities in my old Life Plan.
Of course not. Instead, I made adjustments on the fly. It took a while, but now, four months after welcoming our wonderful baby girl into the world, I’ve had the time to develop a new Life Plan that reflects my new (and happier) circumstances.
Bottom line: use your common sense when adjusting to new circumstances.
Focus On Your Life, Not Your Life Plan
A Life Plan is just a tool. I like having a hammer at home in case I need to put some nails in the wall, but I don’t use it to break open eggs before cooking breakfast. The hammer has a proper function, but it doesn’t work in every situation.
A Life Plan has its place too. It is a reference point, some thoughtfully considered guidance, a powerful reminder of what’s important, and a way to stay on track with your priorities.
A Life Plan is meant to serve your life. But your life is not meant to serve your Life Plan. So keep the focus on your life, and use a Life Plan as a helpful tool, in line with its limited purpose.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Are you experiencing any unwanted limits because you don’t have a Life Plan?
2. How could a Life Plan limit you in good ways?
3. How can you mitigate the risk that a Life Plan will become too constricting?