How You Can Learn to Live Without Plans

Lean into the unknown.

Jess Thoms
Nov 11, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

my family we have one forsaken curse word. The ‘P’ word. Not ‘P’ for pandemic. It’s P for plan.

Screw plans.

It stemmed from my Dad (sorry Dad) asking after my post-pandemic ‘plans’ in the middle of quarantine in April. The world was swirling deeper into chaos each passing day, even hourly. How was I supposed to know when the pandemic would end?

For once, probably the first time in my life, I conceded.

“I don’t have a plan.”

The word ‘plan’ has become our inside joke, representative of the ridiculous pressure and metaphor of decision making this year. Man plans, God laughs, as they say.

I’ve always had a plan. Most people do. If you’re type-A like me, I manage endless spreadsheets and to do lists crammed with goals for my professional and personal life. I make plans, and then become victim to my unwavering standards and expectations of how something should pan out.

This year has taught me plans are useless, but the act of planning can still be valuable. The difference? A ‘plan’ is a set in stone ‘thing’, a course of action, an event, a concrete goal, an agreed upon, unchangeable framework. ‘Planning’ has a vague enough morale to be worthy — less the pressure. Planning is saying: ‘I want to move my life in this general-ish direction, so I shall inch towards it.’

A friend reminded me this week:
“Expectations and rigid plans can cap our full potential. I hope that whatever opportunities are around the corner are beyond what I could even comprehend right now.”

In these uncertain times, you can still maintain control over small things. The way you want your day to go, for example. For the day in front of you is truly all there is to manage.

Pause!
“It’s okay to decide to revisit certain goals or future plans at an unspecified date down the line. It’s okay to accept that you’re not going to accomplish very much or do very much or change very much for the foreseeable future.”

Try microdosing anticipation.
“If the pandemic forced you to cancel your trip to Hawaii (or your wedding), that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to live for — you just have to come up with smaller events to look forward to.”

Our brains thrive on little joys existing in the future, but without events like holidays or weddings to look forward to, we have to hack our chemistry with small moments of joy like a phone call, cooking, or reading a book. We just need to schedule them. Cough, *plan* them.

Let’s lean into the unknown, for no one knows what’s going to happen.

“The history of humanity is the history of impatience. Not only do we want knowledge of the future, we want it when we want it.”

This is a truth usually rejected by humans, as we live perpetually in the future, hoping that hope itself will be what saves us from our current reality.

From all the advice on pausing I’ve gleaned this: Keep your cool, keep life vague, and stay present.

This column was originally published in my weekly newsletter on modern life. You can subscribe here.

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Jess Thoms

Written by

building brands & writing along the way. jessthoms.com/newsletter

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Jess Thoms

Written by

building brands & writing along the way. jessthoms.com/newsletter

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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