“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
Carl Gustav Jung
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.
If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.
But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day.”
“I’ve always liked the time before dawn because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be so it’s easier to remember who I am.”
Plans and planning are tricky things.
I tend to believe I could write a Life version of this and a Business version of this.
Today is Life.
I have written about ‘hard to plan a day’ before, this time I write more about scrapping plans and how difficult we make it to do so rather than discussing actually deciding what plan to have.
Let me begin with intentions.
We wake up.
We decide to head off to change, or impact, the world in any way we choose to. Yes, we may not ‘define’ our decision as impacting — it may simply be under the guise of ‘good shit to do today’, and because of this it also means, unfortunately, we do have a tendency to think of daily plans as ‘doing tangible things’ rather than possibly judging our plan completion under some heading like ‘teaching someone how to do things with grace & dignity & compassion.” I will note, by the way, that sounds like a frickin’ good plan.
Regardless. Let me approach scrapping plans in a curious way.
Curiosity is one of the three things I tell young people is the secret to success <the other two are resiliency and character>. I tell young people this because most older people just don’t seem to have time, or make the time, to be actively curious. Most older people, having inserted themselves into the daily grind and the ‘conserving institutions’ of which we call everyday Life, are less interested in curiosity and more interested in stability.
They try to maintain stability, and to prevent, or at least slow down change. But organizations are organized with the intent to destabilize.
Because its function is to put knowledge to work – on tools, processes and products; on work; on knowledge itself – it must be organized for constant change.”
I say all of that because it means ‘improving the world’ often translates into swimming against the natural tide of ‘conserving institutions.’ I would be remiss if I did not point out swimming against that tide is not easy. And therefore makes it even tougher to scrap the plans for the day.
That said. Not scrapping plans for the day has a bigger repercussion to an individual.
I think the ripple effect for most of us is that we find ourselves waking up each day thinking ‘wow … I would love to improve the world somehow today’ <either consciously or subconsciously> and yet we end the day seemingly not even having nudged Life in a positive <improving> direction. In a weird, and unhealthy way, we have failed. Frankly, this struggle increases a feeling of negativity which can easily consume your life if you are not careful.
Between society encouraging things that don’t feel right for you, a ‘conserving’ environment, unhappy friends, media generating anxiety rating point by rating point by convincing us the world is going to end or intrusive trolls on social media, it can seem overwhelming negative as you view all of this versus what you felt when you first woke up in the morning.
Maybe that is why I love, and included, the Andreas quote: we wake up in the morning knowing ‘who I am’ without anyone trying to tell us otherwise. ‘
It is an odd, uncomfortable, struggle we face in scrapping plans.
Especially if we even have inkling that we have some desire to enjoy the world that day.
Enjoyment, these days, can be found less in curiosity and exploring curiosity and more in stability and ‘things went smoothly <as planned>.’
Just like E.B. White suggests, we are not only torn each day by enjoyment and improvement, but as Drucker points out, layered on top of our own dilemma the world around us is conspiring to suppress any improvements or changes we may decide to try and apply that day.
It is a constant battle of ‘us versus them’ on a variety of levels.
Us versus society.
Us versus others.
“…But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
What if the one day I choose to enjoy the world and someone needs me <which forces me to scrap my enjoyment plan>?
What if I spend the day helping someone who can never really be helped and I miss out on some personal enjoyment?
Thinking about scrapping plans for the day makes you start thinking about is it better if one just stopped caring for others — I don’t mean entirely just becomes secondary — and how would this effect Life <your own as well as others>.
By the way this ends up being more about ‘unintended consequences’ or ‘indirect influence’ on Life.
This may begin sounding selfish, but it is not.
It relates to an important nuance — serving others to benefit someone else or serving myself to benefit others?
Does my plan for each day need to be a question of should I help myself or help others?
I think I have an odd perspective on this and it may sound selfish but hear me out.
I tend to believe if you focus on waking up and improving the world by helping others you are focused on the wrong thing. I would suggest if you focus on improving yourself and being better every day, being the best you can be as PART of the world, you will inevitably improve the world and inevitably help others. I know the difficulty in this approach is that you can lose out on the obvious ‘cause & effect’ feedback loop which helps feed our belief in ourselves and fights everyday negativity in that we have tangible proof we did something positive.
It takes some courage to approach it the way I suggest. And it takes a lot of steadfast resilience in the face of a ‘prove you are doing something meaningful’ world.
Here is another thing in my favor with this thought.
All of us pretty much understand that no matter what plans you make, something unexpected is bound to happen — especially if one of your plans to enjoy the day and improve the world is a commitment to curiosity <which implies plans will be scrapped at some point any way>.
The unexpected portion implies plans are relatively useless and, maybe more importantly, scrapping plans is almost standard.
And following that thought it also implies it almost doesn’t matter what you actually do <as in measured tangible output and checks against ‘things done today’> as long as you have created some positive change, some improvement, around you.
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” he said, “so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”
Look. Life isn’t easy. Planning isn’t easy.
We all know this.
And my thought on approaching Life every day is tough because its approach accepts that things may not get better by tomorrow, maybe not even next week, but at some point <in the future>. And while I don’t really embrace the whole ‘live in the now’ psychology I do suggest that really the only plan you shouldn’t scrap each day is improving yourself and doing the best you can every single day – kind of like “the now improvement plan”.
It is like improving the pebble being dropped into each day’s Life.
Anyway. Despite all the bullshit in this world the one thing you can control is your own self-improvement. The one thing you can actually DO every day is remain curious and pursue curiosity.
You have to keep that in mind because while your plans are your plans you need to beware that someone will always have tools to destroy them.
“Even if you have built your walls higher than the sky, someone will have the tools to destroy them. “
The plans you like, feel comfortable with, and inevitably start putting in place more often. Let’s call this your personal ‘conserving institution’ for the sake of continuity in this post. The point here is what you feel comfortable knowing & doing. As you get older you will find a desire to do what you like doing and think what you feel comfortable thinking — more & more often.
As a result, you don’t see what I see <or someone else sees>. You see what you like. So you end up seeing information that supports your point of view and your plans become less based on pursing curiosity, but instead on stability & predictability <based on what you already know>.
You get stuck. Stuck knowing what you already know. Stuck making plans you have made before.
Curiosity is a deliberate decision and action <I always get a little vocal when someone says ‘I am naturally curious’ because I tend to believe it is more a decision and not some innate characteristic>. To improve yourself <and hopefully improve the world around you> you have break the existing routine of doing what you do and thinking what you think.
You have to force yourself to not only get a different perspective, but actually try and understand that perspective.
Even if you love your job you need to force yourself to learn new skills that increase your value to others <in business & work>.
You have to force yourself to look for something you would typically never read.
So go ahead, scrap the plan for the day.
I believe either you do it or Life will do it.
And maybe that is the biggest point.
Control your destiny or have Life dictate it. That is your choice when it comes to plans and your day<s>.