Sometimes it’s a long route to come back to where you started. 

About 7 months ago I wrote a life plan. I did it under the advice and guidance of a book I had just finished. It had 8 major components each with its own purpose statement, an explanation of both my role and responsibility regarding that component and a statement of how I wanted it to look as well as how it looked now. I made a list of commitments of things I was going to do to bridge the gap between how it was and how I wanted it to be. It was 9 pages long encompassing 3,073 words. Oh, and a eulogy; it contained a eulogy.

I took the day off from work (at the book’s direction) and totally unplugged to do this project. No email, no social media, no family interruptions; just me and my life plan. I was shooting for total focused concentration. It was useful, it was educational, it was enlightening and it was not easy but it was something I thought I needed to do to gain clarity and purpose and direction. And as I pulled into work the morning after to start my new plan (truth be told I’d already started with scripture and a re-reading of the plan) I was anxious to get going. That was… until I started going through that old rolodex of life (yes, I’m that old).

You see I haven’t exactly been successful, at least not in the way many men are judged today. It’s taken me a long time to even rise to middle management. My wife has out-earned me our entire married life. That’s not being sexist, that’s just stating a fact and being a guy (which of course is sexist but I digress). I’ve never received accolades of any kind, nor been recognized in my adulthood. The only time I really reached anything that even approximated that was in high school and even then it wasn’t like I set the world on fire. Now, lest you think this is going to be some whimsical walk down memory lane to the glory days of old high school high, let me squelch that thought. This is serious business; we’re talking about my life and its plan here.

No, as I parked my vehicle at work still thinking about my life plan I realized that back then I had just three things/ways I wanted to be. I wanted to be a good student, a good athlete and be liked by my peers because of these things. No statements of purpose, no future vision, no bullet-pointed commitments just an idea, a goal. And not even a written goal either. Heck it wasn’t even SMART (Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Realistic-Time-bound). Yet, somehow, it worked. By the time I was a senior I had been on the honor roll, National Honor Society, earned letters in sports and was accepted for those things even if I wasn’t the most socially adept person in the building. This was all accomplished without a plan. So this realization set me on my ear and threw my life plan into question.

Why had I (realizing the different moving parts when comparing these two times in my life and development) been successful with such a simple and informal plan and later in life with experience and maturity felt the need to try and map out a battle plan reminiscent of the landing at Normandy? To tell you the truth it made me a little sad. Granted as a teenager I had fewer demands and many fewer responsibilities, however I was a kid, an immature, inexperienced, not terribly self-aware kid. Had I actually regressed to the point where I had to devote a day to figure out what/who I wanted to be? Why, with all my experience in this life thing was I in such dire need of a plan? Didn’t I know where I was going or what I wanted to do or cripes, even how I was going to get there? I can tell you this was not a particularly flattering line of thinking. There had to be some reason for my apparent success earlier in life with fewer tools and organization.

The book recommended that after creating the life plan it be read every day for a minimum of 90 days. I began to suspicion this was because the damn thing was so ponderous that unless I pored over it for a lengthy period daily I would forget all the pieces. I am in my 50’s after all. It further stated that this was a working document intended to be adjusted and tweaked as needed. Maybe tha was to keep me engaged (still don’t have much of an attention span). However, I began to come to the conclusion that the reason for the rote was to ingrain the plan into your melon. Now, I won’t make commentary of the perhaps apparent inability of the mature mind to soak up new ideas or concepts. What I will say is I use everything from Outlook’s calendar, event reminders and scheduling on my phone, laptop and even paper (gasp) calendars for a reason. I’m just sayin’. Still, it seemed so much more onerous than my simple, three-pronged direction from high school. I mean, come on, three things! I started to think, maybe we’re making too much of this deal here.

Maybe it’s not all that complicated (or doesn’t have to be). Maybe we don’t need 3,000 plus words to spell it all out. Granted, I do need reminding and maybe the re-minding puts us in touch on a more subconscious level with where we’re trying to go. Furthermore, if we know where we’re trying to go, or have that in mind at least, maybe we direct our efforts along those lines without even thinking. Aaaannnnddd then it hit me. They’re just trying to get this stuff back into that mush above my shoulders. They’re trying to get me to follow this thing without thinking because that’s my issue: I don’t think!

Well, I’d like to tell you I read my life plan for 90 days as advised. I’d like to say it has directed my activities every day since that day in June when I birthed it at our kitchen table. And I’d really like to say that I’ve stayed on track and adjusted and fine-tuned things all along. But I’d be lying like a rug. I grew weary of the commitments and bored with the repetitive reading of it. It was just too much. Maybe I wasn’t committed enough to the commitments. Maybe I wasn’t committed enough to the process. I’m not quite sure.

I have to figure I’m committed to my life, I mean, it’s the only one I have after all. I think the plan is in my mind as I go about my day but I’m not mentally flogging myself if things aren’t checked off of it. I like to keep a vision for the future because that gives me a destination but I’m not wringing my hands about where I’m at in regard to every facet of the plan. When it comes down to it I think I put the plan together with the same goals and purpose that I’ve pretty much had all along, even back when I was a teenager. I live my life with them every day so why do I need to remind myself who I am or what I stand for and believe in? If there’s anything that’s changed it’s my confidence and faith. I know my roles and my responsibilities will change and I’ll change how I view them as I go along (that’s the fine-tuning). But I’m not worried and I don’t need a plan to follow. I know I can do it because I did it once upon a time when I was a wet-behind-the-ears teenager and if that guy could get it done without a several thousand word plan well, I imagine I can too. After all, he’s still me.

Boy, that was a slog! Ever go around and around only to realize you’re back where you started? And for good reason?! What’s the last thing you went in this kind of circle over?

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