Life Without A Life Plan

For the past few years, my valentine and I have lived and loved in places we never thought we’d get to visit. Some of these were great. Some not so great. We’re pursuing professions we never thought we’d want this bad. Some of the process has been fulfilling. Some of it downright hard. And we’re becoming people we never thought we’d be. Usually we slowly consent to becoming who we really are. Other times, we’re dragged kicking and screaming.

These three major pieces have led us into discovering other puzzle pieces. It’s not that any of them don’t fit well. They were just never part of my plan or hers.

It hit us this evening at dinner. We never know what to say anymore when someone asks us, “So what’s your plan?” Whether they’re talking about our careers, starting a family, or something else, “I have no idea” is usually not what they want to hear at first.

As a matter of fact, the last time our lives looked something like something we could have planned was the day before we met. Unconsciously at first, we began allowing for better possibilities than the ones we could have made for ourselves because we never expected each other.

Life did not go much better than I’d planned when I was too attached to my expectations of who I thought I’d love, where I imagined I’d live, and what I expected I’d do. How can your friends come over and cook you a gourmet dinner in the middle of the week if they know you like to always have grilled cheese and tomato soup on Wednesdays?

People plan around your plans. The more plans you have, the less room for new people you have.

Of course, leaving room for something better can also create space for something worse. Some of those things have happened to us, too. Fear of the unknown and the potential tragedy of facing it is probably why some people like to stick so closely to a plan. But for us, we’ve come to prefer the third option.

Rather than having no plan at all or having five or 10 year plan, we have a compass. We know the general direction we need to go. And the compass keeps us headed in that direction. But we don’t know exactly what the terrain will be like ahead of us and we’re not attempting to mold it or create our own adventure. What kind of adventure is that? Sometimes we encounter obstacles and we have to find our way around. Other times we encounter beautiful scenery and vistas that we never would have seen if we had ignored our compass.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tempting to ignore the compass. Sometimes along the trail there are paths and roads leading in other directions that appear quite promising. We’ve followed some of those before only to realize that no matter how promising they are, they are somebody else’s life.

On the other hand, there have been many times that we were pressured to stay somewhere we knew wasn’t for us or go somewhere our compass did not lead . We have met people along the way who tried to take the place of our compass. They said, “You should go this way” or “Follow me” or “I don’t like where you’re going. I want you to stay here.” Paying attention to our compass means ignoring these people and it’s not easy. They can put on a lot of pressure on, especially if their own life is headed in the opposite direction.

Many people pay attention to their compasses for awhile until they reach a place they really like and they don’t want to leave. I’m not talking about physical places, but other stations in life. I remember being at a certain place in my spiritual life and hoping it never came to an end. I probably stayed there a lot longer than I should have.

Some people are born into certain places in life that they never want to leave. And sometimes, that’s ok. Not everybody has to move to grow. Some people have special compasses that allow them to make journeys without leaving where they are depending on what they’re called to do.

However, for a lot of people, movement is necessary for growth. It can be very tempting to remain surrounded by what’s familiar. There’s something to be said for planting roots somewhere in different aspects of your life. But we have legs, not roots. And aside from having a home in one physical locations for long periods of time, we were made to move in the other aspects of life.

The compass of each person’s life is always pointing in the general direction we need to go. We have the choice to follow or ignore it. To become attuned or to become numb to where it is leading. And when it comes to our spiritual life, our relationships, and our development as human beings, there is no end. We will never reach a point in our development when there will be nothing to look forward to or nothing left for us learn. Why would God give us eternal life if there will be an end to where our compass can lead us?

As Lao Tzu said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”