“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.” ~John C. Maxwell
This year started as a complete mess for me.
After a five-week holiday away from December to January, it was difficult to get back to London and into the swing of things. Not only was I still in holiday mode, but I also came back without a plan.
I am at a point in my life where I am still exploring where in the world I want to be, what I want to be doing, and how.
My background is quite varied and broad. I am half Finnish, half New Zealander, but I grew up in Singapore. I came to London for university, where I studied Geology & Geophysics and then Business Management. I also developed a passion for running, which extended into overall health, fitness, and nutrition, thus I started working as a fitness and running instructor.
I am at quite a fragile point, deciding what path to go down (which field—earth science, business, or fitness; which country—stay in the UK, one of my home countries, somewhere completely new).
It is a decision made harder by having lots of options and a mind that tends to look for the perfect decision. It results in overanalyzing and overthinking, and leads to procrastination. Even small steps and imperfect action would be better than staying still. But I am just so scared to make the “wrong” decision.
I know I want to live life doing what I love. I know what I love—the outdoors and nature, health and fitness, running, travel, and exploration. Therefore, I have a rough idea or vision of the where, what, how—somewhere with amazing nature and sunshine; something that combines the environment, outdoors, and fitness. So a rough idea, but not completely clear, and it feels like a lot of big decisions to make!
At the start of the year, I felt quite lost, really. The lack of plan and knowing made me feel out of control and anxious about the future. Having always harbored perfectionist tendencies and feared the unknown, it was terrifying for me.
So I tried to get back on track by planning. Planning things would make me feel more in control. Having a plan would make me feel less anxious and stressed. A perfect plan would solve everything and help me achieve anything, I thought.
And it did help get back into a routine and on track. But it also did the complete opposite and made me overthink everything, which created a lot of stress and more fear.
During the spring I was actively looking for different opportunities and things to learn, do, experience. It is amazing how much you can find when you really look.
I applied for and asked about many different opportunities including world expedition/exploration jobs and courses, fitness jobs, internships in these fields, startups related to nutrition or fitness, photography, writing, language courses, further education degrees.
At times I got good news and I thought I was in such a great place—lots of opportunities obtained and the whole year set out. I could relax and go with the plan.
But then I got bad news and things seemed to fall apart. For example, because of a foot injury I had to stop running and expedition hiking. And I didn’t get the startup job, which brought me back to square one with no set plans.
Throughout this time, no matter how much I planned, things would change. I felt so out of control and anxious. The whole opposite of what planning was meant to do.
But as time went on, even though the ups and downs kept coming, I started to feel calmer about it all. I don’t know if it was my daily meditation or the fact that I had been thrown out of my comfort zone so many times that I was getting used to it. In any case I was calmer and started to reflect.
I came to realize a few very important things:
1. Plan, but know that plans change.
Having a plan is good because it leads to setting and working toward goals. Hopefully these goals pertain to things that will bring you happiness and a sense of achievement. However, as much as you plan, things change. It is important to be okay with this and flexible. Then re-evaluating and getting going again will be much easier.
2. Overthinking can keep you stuck.
Spending all your time planning, overthinking, and overanalyzing is often procrastination for actually doing something. Usually because of some fear.
3. Doing something is more important than finding the “perfect” opportunity.
It’s important to take action toward any opportunities, even if they don’t seem perfect, as this opens doors for you. It gives you different avenues to explore, new ideas, and even routes to your goal. The open doors are also something you come back to, even when plans change. In the very least, it gives you experience.
4. And finally, in life we go through phases, some that seem good and some that seem bad. But neither lasts forever.
Sometimes you get into a bad phase and feel so stuck and unhappy. It feels like it will never pass. But it does. And then you get into a good phase and are really happy. As awesome as that is, unfortunately, that doesn’t last forever either. But the good news is that a good phase will come again!
I like to think about this as a metaphor about a blue sky and clouds. I got this idea from the mindfulness and meditation app “Headspace” (highly recommend!)
There’s always a blue sky. There may be sun, clouds, or rainy days (representing positive and negative thoughts or phases) and the weather keeps changing. But behind it there is always the calm blue sky, and overall everything is all right.
This idea helps you live more in the present and be calmer. It helps think clearly and make plans or decisions based on your core values. It helps with anxiety in not having everything planned, not having the perfect plan, thoughts of “what if my plan doesn’t work?” It just takes the pressure off and helps you live in the present rather than constantly fearing the future.
It’s great to make plans, to have a direction and vision. This helps you achieve the goals you set for yourself, things you always wanted to do or accomplish, things that could bring you happiness. But we need to accept that plans don’t always go, well, to plan!
Know that when they don’t, you can still achieve your goals and vision, just in a different way—and with a lot more peace of mind.