by Janet M. Shlaes, Ph.D.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Planning, an essential life skill, often turns out to be a seductive and comforting illusion. I’m not referring to critical planning that serves to generate a career- and life-vision, viable outcome goals, a strategic path and the requisite systems and support structures. In many domains, planning is essential; it provides essential functions and decreases the likelihood of failure and unnecessary chaos. The illusion I refer to is the sense that generating a plan also provides a guaranteed relatively stress free outcome. I propose that sometimes plans that fail to work out as desired can lead to something even better.
Looking back on many of my life and career plans, I am extremely grateful that they often went off course in unexpected ways. The missed flight, botched interview, relationship that fell apart, wrong turns (literally and figuratively) and chance encounters provided experiences, adventures and outcomes well beyond my planning mindset at the time. With the wisdom of hindsight, every “off track” experience ultimately led to something far better suited for me than the original plan. Over time, I learned that optimal planning results from a blend of vision, strategy, commitment, flexibility, resilience and openness to embrace the potential gifts in “off track” encounters.
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