"Don’t seek happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness." ~ Ekhart Tolle, A New Earth
Last week's post demonstrated how life planning is a contradiction of terms: Life is now, planning is future. Adding more challenges, life is not something that can be accurately predicted. Did you know where you would be or know what your perspective of life would be today ten years ago? Humans are great at thinking of the future but accurately predicting it or creating it is not one of our greatest attributes.
As the great pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus famously said, "You cannot step into the same river twice." Extending upon this metaphor, you cannot predict what the river will look like or where you'll step five, ten or twenty years from now.
"Although imagining happy futures may make us feel happy, it can also have some troubling consequences. Researchers have discovered that when people find it easy to imagine an event, they overestimate the likelihood that it will occur." ~ Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness
If planning takes us away from life now, and humans are terrible at predicting the future, does this suggest we just float through life like a leaf in the wind? As the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss. Unless you were able to remove the frontal lobe of your brain (i.e. a frontal lobotamy) there is no stopping your anxiety about the unknown or your desire to predict and control future events. Some people may find it easy to be the leaf in the wind but most people cannot. To reconcile the futility of planning and the innate behavior to think about and plan for the future, there is a balance to be found.
"Plans are worthless. Planning is essential." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
I believe any type of planning can be good if it is a reflective exercise that enables an individual to identify and direct their energy to the highest priorities in life now. More importantly, this reflection can end with a return back to life--back to the present moment. This suggests a healthy form of life planning--the balance of life and planning--the kind of planning that always returns you back to where you are now--where life exists.
To add to the semantics study, the word planning is a dynamic verb, which implies that it is an ongoing process. Once the plan is created, it is a static (motionless) piece of history--almost worthless for a life that evolves. However, the process of planning can uncover and clarify your current direction and remove the human anxiety over the unknown; the plan continues to evolve along with your life and you've satisfied your desire for control.
"What is important in life is life, and not the result of life." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In summary, to balance life and planning, the goal of planning must not be the creation of a plan; the goal is the ongoing, reflective process of planning. To use a metaphor, you look forward to view a mirror; however the image reflects back to you. Life is the journey, not the destination.