This Is It: When Plans Don’t Go Your Way

Written by Maisie Loh
4 mins read
Published on Feb 2, 2021

TLDR: We get busy making plans after plans. But what happens when our plans are upended? With the pandemic, some plans such as having a holiday overseas may take another year or two to unfold. Maybe life is just it. This is it – with or without plans, we can learn to live life in gratitude.

Most of us make plans. One plan after another. Some are short-term such as going on a holiday. Others are long-term such as getting married and buying a property. For the last few years, I have stopped making plans except to take time off to go for meditation retreats. Thanks to COVID19, I realised that was a plan too. A plan is something you have in mind to do in the future. Despite not making as many plans now as compared to my youthful self, making just one plan is a plan as well.

In 2019, I attended a course and met several people whom I made a few plans with. These plans included travel.

When Plans Don’t Go Your Way

Making plans is a normal routine. You wake up, think of the task you have in mind for the day. Then you brush your teeth, have your breakfast, take a bath and act on your day’s plan. Though the daily routines of brushing the teeth, and having breakfast are small plans we make from one thing to another.

What happens when your daily routine or plan is upended? Maybe you are used to going to bed at 11 pm but a friend who needs to talk about an issue is preventing you from sleep. What about being told by your manager to change your presentation after you have worked on it to perfection? With the current pandemic, most of our holiday plans have gone down the drain.

This period of major changes does not allow our plans to go as planned. It can bring on frustrations and impatience. Some are suffering from the loss of their jobs while others are still trying to get used to having lesser social contact.

The Reason We Make Plans

What happens if you were to stop making plans one day? Try it. Take a day not planning to do anything at all. It is hard right? Our brain is wired to do things and to take rests in between. It feels uneasy without a job. There’s a saying, “An idle mind is the playground of the devil.” When we don’t give our brain a job, it seems to spiral downwards.

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Having plans makes us feel alive because there is something to look forward. Without something to look forward to, life has no purpose and it may feel as though we are waiting to die. Though the truth is, no matter how many goals we have and how many things we have to do, we are still marching towards death.

Could it be possible that we make plans so we feel we exist? Is having plans a way to feed the ego’s existence?

It’s Time to Stop

Having plans can bring frustration when it does not come to fruition. Not only that. The time of death is uncertain. Having plans after plans can cause this fear that if death comes, these plans would come to a halt. Or you might never see the fruition of them.

Is it possible to do the tasks according to plans without thinking of its fulfilment? It is like going on a holiday. We plan and expect an enjoyable trip. But during the trip, we don’t feel it is special, and instead of being rested, we feel fatigued.

Imagine the possibilities spontaneity and acceptance can bring without us being attached to our plans and its fulfilment. Making plans is inevitable in life with family and work goals to fulfil. But many times, frustration and impatience set in because we want the plan to unfold as we had imagined it. A little inconvenience may cause blood to boil.

Not clinging to how a plan should be completed opens up fresh possibilities and creativity in spontaneous moments.

When I discovered that my mind was dissatisfied because I was hinging on my plans to unfold one day, I realised I had taken life for granted. I was not appreciating the moments I have. Even if there is nothing going on in my life, I have my breath. Watching the breath and wishing those around you well in meditation is a very pleasant job for the brain even in active life. My longing for a meditation retreat to reconfigure my mind of a bad year was really one of the causes for having a bad 2020.

Most of us go about our busy lives without questioning why there is a feeling of sadness, of dissatisfaction or frustration. I went through last year learning to lift my mind through relaxation. But it was not until I realised that even a small plan like wanting a meditation retreat could cause upheaval in the mind, that I became content with all that there is right here, right now.

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Wise Steps:

  1. Make goals without being attached to the plan its fruition. Allow spontaneity and flexibility to add creativity in what you do.
  2. Give the mind a job to anchor it to the present (such as your breath) so it does not create an unrealistic image of your plans, which when unfulfilled can bring frustrations.
  3. Take a pause to breathe in and out slowly every twenty minutes by setting a bell on repeat to help you rest and feel refreshed.

Author: Maisie Loh

Maisie enjoys the practice of mindfulness amidst distractions and sharing it through writing, and teaching as a mindfulness coach at Mindful Breath

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