Life plans falling apart? Try this.

I thought childbirth was really paying off when my eldest was first able to be the designated driver at a family event (I recall margaritas being involved). Now my kids have reached a stage where they’re full of brilliant ideas, too. Nice bonus.

The latest inspiration I’ve got from them has to do with life planning, a discipline which is so not my thing. I’m great at planning projects but I hate committing to set directions in life. Give me options, please. And some unanticipated twists and turns to keep life exciting.

Centuries of great minds have understood that planning is an often futile exercise in hope versus reality. In his epic poem To a Mouse, Robert Burns famously states: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.

Which in modern parlance means shit happens and our careful plans amount to zilch when it does.

However, there’s no denying that good planning does make stuff happen, even for those of use who have a bit of an allergy to it. So imagine my joy when my eldest daughter told me about a way of doing it that doesn’t feel so restrictive:

Life sketches instead of life plans. What a salvation for the commitment-challenged.

You still need a vision, an intention, and an outline of what you want life to look like. But the edges can be kinda fuzzy. All the lines and dots don’t need to perfectly connect. And white space is your friend.


Let’s say you want travel in your life.

A plan-lover’s action list might be:

  • Determine your next desired travel destination
  • Research where you’d like to stay, what you want to visit, etc.
  • Determine a cost and how much time you’ll need
  • Start saving money and squirreling away vacation time
  • Set a date based on the current availability of those two things

Whereas the sketch approach might look more like this:

  • Come up with five places you’d like to go.
  • Unearth possible ways of making any of them happen – say, as an ESL instructor, a volunteer, a student coop, a working stay, a barter deal, a house swap.
  • Based on that, pick the places that seem to offer the best possibility of making them happen soon, and start working that potential by making connections and asking others how they’ve managed to pull it off.
  • One of the possibilities you’ve unearthed will eventually bob to the surface – grab that sucker and work everything else around it.

Sketching involves more willingness to go with the flow. If you’re the kind of person who requires absolute control it might feel too wishy-washy. But it ultimately yields more opportunities because it gives you more than one way to get to your goal. You gotta love that.

And you don’t even have to be good at drawing.

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