I’ve always thought of myself of something of a planner. I love a good strategy, me. When I’m not blogging, I’m paid to do just that – plan stuff. Strategise things. Day-to-day, I’ve got to be super-organised, thinking ahead days, weeks, and months in advance.
And that’s fine by me, because, as I say, I think of myself as being pretty good at that sort of thing. Or rather, I did.
Recently, it’s occurred to me that most of the really good things that have happened to me have been kind of an accident.
For instance, I never, ever intended to lose ten stone and become a health blogger. I’m sure some people are hyper-motivated and hardcore enough to come up with a batshit crazy plan like that and follow it through to the end, but I don’t have that kind of faith in my own ability to get out of bed in the morning without stepping on a plug and immediately calling it all off, let alone do all that. It just kinda happened.
Same with my job. I kinda had it in my head I might like to try living in London some day, but I’d never really intended to actually do it – and the chain of events that found me working for this particular business, in this particularly awesome job (I’m regularly described to visitors as “the one that gets to do all the fun stuff”) was, in all honesty, a combination of chance and luck. Or a ‘fluke,’ depending on how well the people around me think I’m doing. Let’s hope not.
And I’d say that pretty much all the meaningful relationships I’ve ever had have come back to being in the right place, at the right time. Sorry to go all “Sliding Doors” here, but there are a lot of people I wouldn’t have in my life were it not for crossing paths seemingly at random – and yet, I wouldn’t be without ’em. Any of them.
So many things that have happened to me over the last few months have been the result of random occurrences and chance meetings – something that, a couple of years ago, I would never, ever have been open to. Y’see, I loved me a good long-term plan. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve wanted to do the whole settling down thing. And I’ve had times where I’ve been so fixated on getting into a particular career – which was, at the time, academia – that I’ve near enough given myself complete and utter burnout by stressing about it.
And I can safely say that I haven’t managed to complete very many of these long-term plans. In fact, if I were inclined to measure myself by my long-term plan success rate, I’d be pretty damn blue right now.
Fortunately, that’s not how I roll.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals in mind. Goals are a different thing. Having an idea of what you’d like to achieve can only be a good thing, because it gives you something to aim towards and focus on. I’ve said before that knowing what it is you really want, deep down, can give you all the motivation you need to make the magic happen – but the point at which this can start to unravel is when your goals get deadlined, and become plans. Then, a knockback, a delay, or an accident can seem like the end of the world – and a surefire route to stress and disaster. Bad times.
For instance: relationships. I’ve known couples who’ve followed the plan – the one that says that after so many years, you should be engaged, and so many years later you should be buying a house, and having kids, and so on. And that’s all well and good – but I’ve also known couples who’ve met, fallen head over heels and just gone with it, whether that means getting engaged after a number of months, or ten years. They’re just doing their own thing, and they’re blissfully happy and not tied down by ‘the plan.’
Careers, too: like I said, I nearly broke myself trying to get into academia. Now, I work in marketing. But I’m still doing the PhD for the love of the topic, rather than for the job – and that’s a great position to be in.
And diets: I don’t know how many times I’ve said that aiming to lose a certain number of pounds by a certain date seems like something of a fool’s errand. You can’t depend on the scales. You just can’t. What you can do is say you’d like to be healthier by a certain date. That’s a winner. You can control that, and make it happen.
But the way to achieve these long-term goals is through day-to-day, iddy biddy changes that eventually amount to something, not in huge leaps. By switching fast food for healthy meals, and by walking instead of taking the bus, you can lose a huge amount of weight, and keep it off; but by going on a severely calorie restricted, carb-free, only-eat-beef-whilst-standing-on-your-head-and-juggling-a-cat crazy diet, you might lose ten pounds in time for that big event, but the odds are you’ll gain it right back the second you start to live a normal life again.
And this seems to be something of a pattern. I’ve noticed lately that the really successful people I meet don’t focus on huge, almost impossible plans – instead, they seem to have an annoying habit of doing lots of very small amazing things, every single day.
Focusing on those little things frees you from the burden of a long-term plan, and gives you the satisfaction of constantly ticking new things off your to-do list – which in turn, motivates you to go on to the next. It also gives you room to manoeuvre, so that you can have fun. Little awesome things can be shuffled around to make room for a big ol’ glass of wine and a slice of pizza should they be required. And they also give you that flexibility to change the plan, pack it all in and go live with sherpas in Tibet should one of these amazing, crazy-ass accidents happen that pushes you in that direction.
I’m not really one for believing in fate – it’s just not really me. I do, however, believe that if you’re open to good things happening, and to rolling with the punches, things have a way of working out. Bou can’t do that, though, if you’re tied into a plan.
So be flexible. Be open. And enjoy the moment. Because it turns out that awesome things tend to pop up when you least expect them.