Every night, at the conclusion of another exhausting workday, I would make grand plans.
I would painstakingly go over everything that went wrong that day. I would gloss over everything that went right. Unless a big deal was closed or a competitive hire secured, I was never satisfied with how I showed up in my life.
Each night, I would resolve to make big changes. Overnight, I would aim to transform myself into a productivity machine. My grand plans would involve a hyper-focused frenzy of exceptional work, moving conversations that softened the hardest of hearts, and articles that flowed like water down a glacial rock.
Making grand plans was a great way to distract me from the grief of not measuring up to my own standards.
Every night, I would recommit to all my goals — losing 20 lbs, securing my next promotion, and becoming a successful writer.
I would visualize my name in lights. Oh, how successful I will be. I will be exemplary. I will be exceptional. I will be the best I can be — not just the best version of myself but the best version of anyone ever.
I would go to bed pumped. I would urge myself to fall asleep quickly because the quicker I slept, the sooner I could wake up — and conquer the world.
And then, morning would come. In the cold light of day, doubts would creep in.
Sure — I wanted to lose 20 lbs but I couldn’t muster up the motivation to skip breakfast. Cold water would fill my joints at the thought of going to the gym. I would open a blank Google Doc intent upon creating my next masterpiece — and the words would trickle out, clunky and sludgy and the sentences would run into each other like drunken ants.
I would pick up my work phone and start going through my emails. The issues I was dealing with yesterday would still be there — tightly tangled webs of dread. And the emails I did not respond to yesterday would taunt me. I would contemplate whether I could ignore these altogether. No response is better than a slow response — right?
I am not quite so exceptional, after all.
At work, the emails would start rolling. The phone would start ringing. Morning would turn into a rushed lunch — chowed down while scanning emails — and counting the minutes until my next conference call. The afternoon lull would hit- I would half-halfheartedly consider grabbing another coffee — and begrudgingly decide not to. I will need my sleep tonight. Who knows what grand plans would need to be executed tomorrow?
Evening would come. I would go home, eat my dinner, and try to muster the motivation to write. Sometimes, surprisingly, flashes of brilliance would strike. Other times, I would start re-watching Breaking Bad while formulating new grand plans.
Where does it end? What is the point of grand plans if they lead me down dark trail after blind alley? Is a day lived in the moment trying to be the best that I can be better than castles in the air that dissipate like dust in sunlight?
When I make grand plans, I do it with the ‘ideal me’ in mind. This is the superhero version of me that never rests, needs minimal food to function, and has no urges to watch Netflix and binge eat ice cream. When it is dark, this ‘ideal me’ emerges like a nightcrawler from its bat cave.
In the cold light of day, when the ‘real me’ is struggling to open her eyes while brewing her morning coffee, I cannot help but confront my inability to meet my own lofty expectations. The best thing to do is to wait until night falls again.
Maybe it is time to delegate this superwoman version of me into the comic books where she belongs. The truth is that I will never be perfect. I will never quite meet my own expectations for my life. But maybe that is okay. Because the clock doesn’t stop ticking. The days do not stop advancing. I keep getting older. So maybe the best thing to do is to embrace the moment. Wake up every morning with an energy and commitment to make the absolute best of every day. At the end of the day, when my stores of energy are depleting, maybe I should forgive myself. There is nothing wrong with sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. Maybe after making things happen all day, I have earned it.
I am slowly recovering from my addiction to grand plans. Now, at the end of the day, when I am most vulnerable, I count all the things I did right that day — supporting the close of a deal, writing and publishing an article on Medium, and having a salad for lunch. If the urge to watch Netflix hits, I give in to it without punishing myself.
I accept every day for what it is, begrudgingly pat myself on the back for showing up, and resolve to make tomorrow another great day.
And in the morning? When I don’t have the bitter aftertaste of last night’s grand plans bothering me — like a dull hangover — my day progresses so much better. I am human. I am flawed. But I keep going anyway. Maybe ‘ideal me’ would be disappointed. But ‘real me’ feels at peace.