Post Updated on March 5, 2021
Have you ever had someone ask you where you see yourself in the next five years? If you have, was your instant reaction to break out in a sweat and have an existential crisis? Yeah, me too. I absolutely dread that question.
Sometimes I wonder if I should have the rest of my life figured it out because it’s expected of me and it seems to be the only way to reach my goals. It doesn’t help that I see so many blog posts, articles, and books claiming that they’ll help me plan out my life for the next three, five, and even ten years.
The thing is, I’ve always been the kind of person who can plan a week or two ahead at the max. This is both a blessing and a curse because a) it means I can be extremely flexible and b) it often means I never actually stick to the plans I create for myself. Sometimes I feel as though I’m getting nowhere in life (I know I am, but let me be dramatic for sec), but I know that having a strict plan can feel suffocating to me.
I know there are people who are at the opposite end of the spectrum to me. Those people whose planners are their life and every hour of the days needs a plan, every hour until the day they die. Having things planned out even years in advance let’s them get everything accomplished that they want to.
I’ve tried to plan out an entire year for myself with small steps reaching towards a bigger goal, but often I find myself wanting to change the steps in between. And, to be honest, sometimes I just change my goals entirely because something better or more exciting grasps my attention.
Related Post: How to balance your time and create a flexible routine
Planning vs. Flowing
So with everyone talking about life plans and figuring out every next step for the rest of our lives, I started to wonder which one was better: planning or flowing? If you listen to Jess Lively’s podcast, you’ll already be familiar with the concept of flowing. Flowing is basically a decision to let things flow to you without trying to force certain outcomes.
There are pros and cons to both planning and flowing. With flowing, you get to let your values and intuition lead the way but you also risk getting lazy or missing opportunities. With planning, you have guidelines to follow that can make decisions easier but if things don’t go to schedule, it can be extremely disappointing and frustrating to rearrange everything.
After all, do we really want to be planning out every detail of our lives? What if going with the flow brought us something wonderful we never could have planned? On the other hand, what if more planning could bring us efficiency and peace of mind?
Whether you’re a flexibility lover or a planner fanatic, there comes a time when we need to strike a balance between the two so that we can actually make progress towards our goals AND stay mentally sane when things don’t go to plan. Here are my tips for finding the right balance between planning and going with the flow:
Three Tips for Finding Balance
1. Do what works for you
Consider what has worked for you in the past. Before you read all of the planning and goal-setting blog posts, what have you done that worked well? Were you planning, flowing, or a combination of both?
I would say don’t try to plan out the next five years if it doesn’t feel necessary. If it overwhelms you instead of creating a sense of excitement, maybe it’s not something you should focus your energy on. We also need to recognize that success is absolutely possible even if you choose to go with the flow. Passion is a whole lot more important than a detailed plan.
I do, however, think it’s beneficial to introduce some structure into your life, even if you’re not one for planning. Maybe it’s carving out twenty minutes each day to work on something that will fuel your passion and light you up. If the idea of routine bores you, consider what you already do in your life every day that you haven’t become bored of yet. If you look closely enough, you’ll realize that we all have our little routines without even realizing it.
2. Reconsider what you plan
If you’re the kind of person who likes to plan everything out, consider whether you are forcing plans that don’t necessarily need to be made. Are you overwhelming yourself by cramming your schedule with tasks?
It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes we plan as a method of procrastination instead of actually taking action. We want everything to be perfect so we plan out every detail, but planning can only get you so far until it’s time to actually do the work.
Take a look at your schedule/to-do list/goal tracker etc. and really think about whether these things need to be scheduled. Is it possible that you can free up some space in your planner for flowing? Maybe the solution is even to schedule in time for flowing!
3. Be willing to shift and adjust
Life throws way too many obstacles for us to believe that everything will always go to plan. We have to let go of some of our stubbornness and face the fact that we will need to be flexible sometimes. Being willing to shift and adjust when plans need to be changed can really help us avoid getting anxious and frustrated later. Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of control and make plans with the mindset that not everything is going to work out perfectly.