The Slippery Nature of Planning

For the second year in a row, I am going into the fall without a full-time teaching job. It wasn't supposed to work this way. I was supposed to graduate from college, find a job in an excellent school district and be teaching exactly what I want to teach. I wasn't supposed to spend a summer fruitlessly applying for countless jobs and only getting two interviews. I wasn't supposed to sub for an entire year. I wasn't supposed to spend another entire summer looking for and applying for jobs to only get one interview. These were not my plans.

For a long time I was the type of person that liked to plan and have everything adhere to that plan. I liked having that feeling of control. The experiences of the past two years are teaching me something knew: when your carefully laid plans start to slip away, let go and make new ones.

For a long time, I tried to grab ahold of my waylaid plans the more they slipped away. I got frustrated and depressed. Instead, I realize that now is the time and opportunity for growth.

Plans are obviously artifacts of the past. By definition, they are an attempt at regulating and predicting the future. When they start to slip away, realize that you now have new experiences, new knowledge, and new insight that you didn't have when you originally made those plans. This is an opportunity to rejoice at the chance to use all of your new information to improve your plans. Adhering to an old plan that no longer fits the situation is the height of folly. And yet, that's exactly what many of us do. Circumstances change and it makes sense for us to adapt as well.

Using the example I talked about earlier with my job search experiences I can illustrate what I'm talking about. When I first made those plans to graduate from college and get a teaching job, I had no idea that I had an interest or any skill in blogging. My inability to find a teaching job has opened a new door into a world I knew almost nothing about a year ago. Instead of using my frustration as an excuse to give up I refocused my energy on a new activity. And even though blogging and teaching are two very different activities, my efforts here at The Simpler Life draw on a lot of the skills I developed as I studied to become a teacher in college.

So, in a nutshell, what should you do if you feel your carefully laid plans slipping away?

  1. Let go: You won't get in trouble if you abandon your plan. Sometimes the best option is to just cast it aside and get busy forging a new path.
  2. Use the core of your original plan: Take the main skills or idea of your old plan and create a new one with them. For example, when I couldn't find a full-time teaching job, I didn't completely abandon the plan and become an actor or a crab fisherman. Instead, my new plan is to substitute teach for awhile while I refocus my teaching talents toward my writing. I'm still using many of the skills that I needed for my original plan. I'm just applying them in a different way.
  3. See it as an opportunity for growth: It can be easy to feel like a failure when plans don't turn out the way you think they will (or should). Instead of feeling that way, try to look at it as an opportunity to do something new. If my original plans had worked out how I wanted, I never would have started this blog and I would have missed out on all the excellent experiences I've had because of it. What have you always wanted to do but haven't?

It all boils down to how you react to a change of plans. What will your attitude be like? What good does sulking and getting depressed do? Change, adapt, and move forward!