Having a Plan… or Not

One of the interesting things about growing older is the changing opinions I have. I’ve written in the past on goal setting, goal achieving and various other flavors of being oriented toward planning and organizing. And I think those are good things, don’t get me wrong.

Goals are fine and dandy. I feel like I’ve had overarching goals for my life ever since I was around 13 or 14 years of age. Those goals has changed as I’ve grown and achieved things, but looking back I can clearly see them now. When I was in my early to mid-teens, I felt a pull on my life to enter into full-time Christian ministry as a vocation. After that plan fell through for me in college and I dropped out, I had a new plan: get out of debt and find a way to become a “grown up”. I did that for a few years until I joined the Army in a fit of patriotism right after 9/11. Once I’d made that decision, I had a new goal: just make it through my time in the service with my sanity and health intact. After leaving the military, I got a civilian job and worked for quite a few years at trying to secure an expat assignment with a multinational corporation.

Some of these goals I’ve achieved and some of them I haven’t, or the focus has changed as I’ve pursued them and I eventually determined that they weren’t the proper goals for me to attain. And all of this is hindsight, of course: at the time, I didn’t always specifically understand what goal I was working toward (although sometimes I did). And I’ll fully admit that I’ve had my fair share and more of good fortune that has gotten me to where I am in spite of some of the decisions I’ve made.

The old adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail” can certainly hold true; I wouldn’t advocate not having any goals at all, anytime, ever. Goals provide security and focus, and they eliminate aimlessness, so they’re very beneficial for a lot of folks in a lot of circumstances.

But I’m coming to a point in my life where I’m finding it harder and harder to get worked up about setting goals and planning everything out. By definition (or at least the definition I hold to), goals require a person to strive toward a certain predetermined outcome. This outcome will come at the expense of other potential outcomes, since that person is making decisions that exclude other choices to further the one choice they’ve settled on. I’m not as much of a fan of this process as I used to be.

I’ve always been very confident in my direction (even if that direction wasn’t the best one) because it helps me to feel better about myself. As much as I’ve come to think of myself as a non-competitive person, I believe there’s still a bit of “achiever” in my personality. Things that provide status provide self-worth to me, and I don’t like that. That’s not the example I want to set for the world, and especially for my son.

Additionally, I’ve become less and less enamored with my own decision-making abilities, as well as my ability to foresee what the best choice for me and mine would be. I’ve made a bunch bad decisions that have required a Hail Mary dive and catch in the back of the end zone for them to work out okay in the end. I no longer assume that my decisions are going to be the best possible.

So I feel like it’s time to let go and become okay with uncertainty. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m becoming more convinced that it’s true for me. Maybe it’s a classic mid-life crisis (although I hope I’m not quite to mid-life yet!), but I’m feeling the need for new experiences. I want to step out in faith and allow serendipity to play a part in determining what happens next. I’ve got some ideas about how I plan (<— there’s the word!) to accomplish that, but I’m not sure I’m totally ready to reveal them to the world.

I understand that, as much as I’d like to, I can’t experience multiple tangents of time. I can’t make a choice to both do and not do something, so I will necessarily not get to experience any more by not planning than I would have by planning. But I think it might be educational to make some choices on what seems right instead of what seems best, if that makes any sense.

One thing I do know (and that I’ve talked a bit about on this blog in the recent past) is that I’m interested in paring down my footprint, because releasing some of the “stuff” should allow me to be more sensitive to seeing and stepping out in faith on a journey that may present itself. My possessions have started to become overwhelming, at least to me. I know it’s not as much of an issue for the rest of my family, so there will have to be a give and take involved. But I’m very fortunate in the fact that my wife is understanding and (mostly) on the same page as me, so we’ll find a way to go more lightly in the world together.

Quick Shot: Daniel Norris, Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher

Really quickly… I’ve made no secret of my love of baseball in the past. It’s the only sport I really, truly have followed for my whole life. My team is the Seattle Mariners, since I grew up here, but I may be watching a whole lot more Blue Jays games this spring and summer due to Daniel Norris.

When I first heard about him and his… unconventional approach to the offseason, I mentioned to friends that he may be my new favorite non-Mariners baseball player. After reading this article about him, he may just be my new hero.

Two quotes from the article:

Before the Blue Jays understood his convictions, Norris felt like the team had trouble making sense of his unpredictable life — coaches, teammates and executives asking him questions that indicated a measure of unease. Why, with seven figures in the bank, did he take an offseason job working 40 hours a week at an outdoor outfitter in his hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee? Would it do permanent damage to his back muscles to spend his first minor league season sharing an apartment with two teammates in Florida and sleeping only in a hammock? Why had he decided to spend his first offseason vacationing not on a Caribbean cruise with teammates or partying in South Beach but instead alone in the hostels of Nicaragua, renting a motorcycle for $2 a day, hiking into the jungle, surfing among the stingrays? And was that really a picture on Twitter of the Blue Jays’ best prospect, out again in the woods, shaving his tangled beard with the blade of an ax?

Actually, it looks like he’s shaving with a tomahawk (the picture’s included in the article), but you get the gist. Daniel knows what’s truly important to him, and he’s not afraid to go against convention to achieve it. Priorities, man. He’s got ’em.

Here’s a guy who’s first professional endorsement was for 1% For The Planet, talking about how his life may change if/when he becomes a fixture in the Jays’ rotation:

“What I’ll do, if baseball goes well, is I’ll become even more of an ambassador for the things I really care about,” he says. “I’ll make sure Shaggy’s still running. I’ll pioneer change in how sports thinks about the environment.”

Man, this guy is awesome. Do what’s really important to you, and cut out the rest.