When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan
Sometimes life refuses to go according to plan...
Six months ago I was engaged, and my plan for 2015 was to be married and living in cute little house with the woman of my dreams as we built our future life together.
At the moment, I'm single and sitting in my basement. I've spent a lot of time contemplating what went wrong.
Life obviously did not go according to my plan.
We initially pushed back our wedding date in October to give ourselves some much-needed space and time. Three months later we decided it was best to call off our engagement entirely to allow ourselves to tackle some personal struggles.
I remember waking up the day after our breakup and realizing my worst nightmare had become a reality. (I literally had nightmares about calling off my engagement.)
I know, people break up all the time. Every day couples are calling off their engagements, or getting left standing at the altar, or going through struggles of infidelity, bankruptcy, loss, or even dead bedrooms.
Life goes on, right?
Well, none of those people have a project called The Loveumentary dedicated to learning and practicing the things that make amazing relationships a reality. (Or at least that's what I told myself.)
Needless to say, after the breakup I was really angry, confused and scared. I felt like a fraud. There were moments where I felt completely unworthy of love or that my heart would never heal.
It was pretty bad.
Breakups are horrible. Life is sometimes really really hard. Love is risky...
But getting hurt is not what this post is about.
This post is about having a plan... and what happens when that plan goes horribly wrong. Like, the opposite-of-the-way-you-thought-plans-would-go kind of wrong. The what-the-heck-just-happened-are-you-freaking-kidding-me kind of wrong.
I have a foolproof plan...
I recently realized that every time I've had one of those shake-your-fist-at-the-sky-and-scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs moments it's because I've been attached to a specific outcome. I wanted something to happen really really bad... and despite all of my valiant efforts the thing did not happen.
I make plans all the time... and here's what it sounds like inside my brain:
"I'm going to say/do A, and then she's going to say/do B, and then I'll respond with X, and then she'll see things my way, and we'll all be happy!"
Plans are simple, easy, straightforward.
If everyone followed my plans, life would be so much less painful, and everyone would be so happy!
Then I read this amazing quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower which led to a moment of exquisite clarity for me:
Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.
Plans work the opposite of the way life works.
Life is chaotic, complex, and random... and when pitted up against my plans, life always wins, and I lose.
Planning vs. Having a Plan
As I've reflected on the chaos that has been my life over the last several months, I've learned a valuable lesson: Getting fixated on a plan generally leads to disappointment... but there is HUGE value in planning.
Planning involves preparing, considering all the possibilities and contemplating potential outcomes, then formulating a response for all of these circumstances.
Our love life is probably the area where we make the most "plans."
We have "a plan" for our honeymoon. We have "a plan" when we're going to buy a house. We have "a plan" for how romantic vacations will unfold, when we'll have kids, how many kids we'll have, and how well-behaved they'll be. We have plans about how our bodies will look, how much energy and money we'll have, and how our love will always feel easy.
If all we get attached to a plan of how we think life should be, our marriages and relationships will be fraught with disappointment, frustration, and conflict... because life happens, and our plans get destroyed.
Or as Mike Tyson said, "Everybody has a plan 'till they get punched in the face."
Instead, if you are rigorous in your planning - if you prepare and avoid getting attached to "a plan," - you can roll with the punches when it rains through your entire honeymoon, or when you can't afford a house in the first 5 years of your marriage, or when traffic or sickness threatens a romantic getaway. You can still find joy and happiness when you are surprised with twins... even very rambunctious twins, or when you put on weight or lose your hair... or even when your engagement falls to pieces.
If you're finding yourself being constantly disappointed or stressed or looking around wondering how the heck you got where you are and what happened to the life you thought you'd have, ask yourself the question, "Am focused more on planning, or on living out my ideal plan?"
What can you do to start planning and preparing for the curveballs and bombshells of life? How can you educate yourself to handle jarring, unexpected situations with grace and poise? How can you develop the habit of seeing the good in everything... even when life doesn't go according to "the plan?" Leave your thoughts in the comments!