We are planning creatures. We plan our weekends, vacations, and lives to a greater or lesser extent. Some of us pick out every detail and polish perfectly while others are on a plan that involves not having any plan. We build our time so that we can get the most out of it. On weekends we structure our time that we might do what we want to do and get done what must get done. On vacation we plan to see new things and plan relaxing activities. For life, we plan where we will be in five years, ten years, etc.
"The plan" has been one of the biggest things in my life. As a young person I feel that everyone really wants to know what your plan is. Where are you considering going to school? What are you studying? What do you want to do with that? What do you want to do with your life?
These are all big questions and it sounds quite nice to have big answers. Yet, for all of our planning nothing is more certain than the fact that something will go wrong. There is an issue in planning inherent to the fact that things are ever changing. I had the firmest of plans to go to law school after I graduated from college, but I didn't anticipate an intense feeling of burn out. I had a plan all lined up and everything that I did was able to be tied back to the plan.
I had my eyes on the prize yet I, as many do even with plans of lesser severity, got tunnel visioned. Frankly, I had tried too hard and ignored my limits. Like a guy in a bar defiantly having a good time I went past my limits without even realizing it and found myself sitting, wondering why things just wouldn't fit with the plan. Yet the thinking in that is backward. Life will never fit your plans. Plans can, however fit life. Life is in constant flux and so too should be our plans.
I had a friend in college who got a lot of guff for being a planner. She would thoroughly plan her weekend, picking out the interesting stuff to do around town and building a group with whom to do it. When it came time for the festivities she lead the charge, but sometimes the charge did not happen. People would flake, things would change, and plans would fall through but that was not a problem.
Her plans were not static. As things would change so too would the plan. As things would fall through, other plans would be formed. Really, the true work of a planner occurs during an event rather than before. A good planner is mindful. They pay attention to how things are changing and they adapt the plan to fit the situation.
1. The plan
In order to plan mindfully we must first start with a plan. Be it your weekend or your life, simply think out the things that you want to do.
2. The Execution
This is really the hardest part. As things happen it is easy to get tunnel visioned. Rather than barreling through trying to damage control when things don't fit the plan make the plan fit the situation.
3. The evaluation
In the midst of the execution give yourself an opportunity to examine the situation. Step back and take a look at something that might indicate that things are successful. For example, if you planned a party perhaps take a step back and see if everyone is having fun. If not, perhaps the plan should change.
One of the driving principles of this site, along with my life, is that little improvements turn into big changes. I always strive to be better at everything, absolutely everything. The key is that I don't try to tackle this mission all at once. That would be far too intimidating. I take improving bit by bit. The little bits build to big changes over time. Here's why little is so powerful.
The power of little
We've been encouraged for a lot of our lives to think big. We are encouraged to dream big and to make big plans. WE have been promised that big will give us better results than small. Our food portions are big. Our cars are big. Bigger is better and better is bigger. Yet big is made up of small. A big basket with a burger and fries wouldn't be full if it weren't for all of those individual fries. A house can't be big without rooms. A big plan is not big without the details that go into employing it.
When it comes to making a big plan or a big goal we need to focus on the big picture. But we also need to look at all of the little pieces that make up the big picture. It is lining up a thousand small pieces that we achieve our goals. Little things are indispensable for success. Small things often compound. For example, with good organization comes easier editing. Memorizing a couple words per day makes our vocabularies bigger over time. The small stuff builds us up to the big stuff, and each little change we make makes our lives better. If I focused on being a perfect person then I would inevitably fail. If instead I focus on being kinder, more productive, and more helpful then perhaps people will think I'm perfect. Every little change supports the journey. Through every single step, we get closer to wherever it is that we are going.
How mindfulness plays in
Recently I asked about someone who had retired. Did anyone ever talk to them? "Well some of the folks here have. He said he waxed his tub the other day"
Let that sink in. Pun intended. He waxed his tub. I don't know about you but:
Here is the kicker: I can't imagine what I would do after quitting work. Retirement.