You know me, I’m a planner.
I order, organize, and schedule everything I possibly can. If it isn’t nailed down, I’ll nail it down, doggone it. If I discover something unresolved or up in the air, I won’t relax until it’s on the calendar with itemized to-dos, a check-list for communications with every stakeholder, and cross-referenced with all associated ventures.
To some people, this sounds like neurosis. Those people aren’t wrong. Still, I think of it like basic responsibility, reliability, and impeccability.
It usually serves me pretty well. Very rarely do I forget to do something that I said I’d do. Almost never do I let down someone who was counting on me. (I can barely stomach even the thought!) My naturally obsessive attention to detail has helped me to sustain relationships and remain super-productive throughout this past year. Right now, it’s enabling me to oversee a project with a gazillion moving pieces. In general, because I’m meticulous, I feel pretty confident taking on commitments that are bigger and more complicated than I really know how to do.
What I learn again and again is that all of this management and coordination is really just preparation to be flexible. To be adaptable. Plan and prepare for weeks or months — only to have to let those plans go, in the end. When the actual moment turns out to call for something completely different, be willing to go with that flow instead.
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”– Dwight D. Eisenhower
While I’d rather not compare my life to a war, this does sound about right. The Bhagavad-Gita uses the same battlefield metaphor for all of human existence. And I think it does speak to one of life’s fundamental balancing acts — the balance of strength with flexibility.
Compulsive anxiety aside, I think that most of my planning and preparation is really about strength — feeling strong. Feeling capable and reliable. “I got this! You can count on me!” I will make committed choices and take whatever decisive actions are called for. I’ll be a bold “Yes!,” even if I’m not sure how it’s going to go.
That can be pretty darned powerful. But if I just show up like a tank ramming through walls and over obstacles, that alone doesn’t usually prove very effective in terms of achieving my desired outcomes. Strength without flexibility becomes rigid, bullish, and stuck. Then again, neither is flexibility, on its own, very workable. It’s great to be accommodating and adaptable — but without decision and action, we don’t get much of anything done.
So what works for me is to plan, plan, plan — decide, decide, decide — and then be willing to pivot as necessary, on a dime. Listening, learning, and changing, even if that means that my best-laid schemes go completely awry. Probably, especially when it means that.
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m wondering about that aphorism. I think it usually means that ideas that are never get exercised or acted upon ultimately are aimless. It’s another version of “faith without works is dead.” But I’m also thinking about this proverb, now, in the context of our New Thought practices around intention-setting, the power of our thoughts and beliefs, our creative minds…
While that first take still holds — thoughts and prayers without effort and process don’t go far — I think there might also be something in here about strength and flexibility.
Because strong intentions can certainly take us all sorts of places, not just to hellish ones. Everything on purpose starts with intentions; ain’t nothing wrong with our good intentions. They only become a problem when we find ourselves on some highway to hell and still stubbornly refuse to change course.
Actually, it’s a great thing when our plans-intentions-prayers take us into new, unexpected territories that require something different from us, the development of fresh capacities. Those can be breakthrough experiences. But it sure can feel like suffering and torment (for ourselves and for everyone around us) if we’re dead-set on plan A when life is already ahead, trying to bring us through plans B to Z.
I’m writing this on a Tuesday, which is not at all what I’d planned. I wasn’t ready even to decide on a topic this week, to say nothing about scribbling out a blog and preparing this weekend’s talk. But, as I already mentioned, I’m on a tight timetable in the midst of a demanding project which has every single hour mapped with with scheduled commitments. AND THE WEATHER TOTALLY MESSED THAT UP. Everything arranged for today had to move, which meant that Thursday’s agenda had to shift, etc… So, ready or not, here we are!
On the fly will probably never be my preferred way of doing things, but it’s kind of liberating and empowering to be reminded that I can maneuver like this, when I absolutely need to. Really, if I didn’t flex, something was going to break. So I’m going to practice being as bendy as I can possibly be, and I invite you to bend with me.
Join us online this weekend, at BOSQUECSL.ORG and VIMEO.COM/BOSQUECSL. New content available every Saturday by 6:00pm. If all goes as planned (?!) we’ll be together again in person on Sunday mornings, starting June 13. I can’t wait to see your gorgeous faces! XO, Drew
©2021 Drew Groves