Your Five Year Plan is Pretty but Useless

I took a course in college that was focused on good business practices and time management and strategic planning.

It was an elective (I was in the Music Education track, so a business course was just to round out my intensely useful Liberal Arts Degree) and I embraced the ideas presented.  Because, in a life threaded with things that were completely out of my control - from my circumstances growing up to my grandfather's death to my ever growing list of stupid things I'd do for women - the idea of planning my life out in detailed strokes and then following that plan to the end point gave me a sense that I was IN CONTROL of my life.  That CONTROL was, the course taught me, the secret to my success.  It was a road map to the Good Life - filled with security and strategic choices.  With these tools at my disposal, I could effectively predict the directions that I took in life and get things done!

What a load of crap.

Talking to my dad - just checking in on my family because the weather in KS was looking pretty dire - and, in the brief conversation, he told me he was proud of me in that he knows so many people who hate their jobs and grind away at life but not his son.  "Life is so unpredictable and shit gets thrown your way all the time and you have to be able roll with those punches.  And you're practically the King of that." he said.

I don't know if I'm the King, but I think I'm at least in the Court.

The need to control our worlds is pervasive in we human beings.  We create sets of rules in order to control the random circumstances of a universe in which we are almost insignificantly tiny.  Then we fight amongst each other about whose rules are the right ones.  This need to control each other is pathological - we go to wars over this nonsense.

Our relationships are focused on controlling the outcomes - in marriage we make the most ridiculously optimistic promise ("Til Death Do Us Part") and are then surprised that sometimes (oftentimes) people grow up differently and take different lessons from the exact same mistakes.  We search for The One when that ideal is rooted in ownership and a notion of lifelong fidelity.

And we write five year plans.  As if these plans are realistically grounded in who we will be five years from now.  In my experience, five years changes so much - about who you are, about your priorities, about your beliefs - that to try and control the navigation of the ship that far down the voyage is folly.  Christ - as a species we are barely in control of our reactions to primal stimuli, how do we expect to control anything else?  Better to just make a Five DAY plan and hope that your Friday looks even remotely the way you thought it would.

I'm not the King (I'm sure he or she is completely conflict free and doesn't actually struggle with this) but I can give you a hallpass to the Court.

Let go of your need to control things, circumstances and people.  Stop trying to predict the future - trust me, your prediction will be completely wrong.  Do your best to control yourself.  Do stupid, thoughtless things, make amends for them and be gracious when someone does something thoughtless and stupid to you.  Do your level best to control your appetites and your temper and need for drama.

And relax.  Your tense neck muscles and upset stomach will not change anything.  Your spreadsheet of goals to achieve in five years will be lost amidst the surprise bills, breakups, busted friendships, hurricanes, tornadoes, and chance encounters.  And that isn't something to bemoan - that's the nature of the particular beast known as humanity.