As my personal understanding of how the Universe works evolves, I find myself occasionally questioning the voice inside of me that says “do not make a plan, let things unfold on their own”. This phenomenon usually occurs when I’m in the midst of feeling anxiety or fear about some circumstance in my life. There are some common themes that probably run through all of our lives that can trigger that anxious response. One that immediately comes to mind is MONEY. I could make the font size of that word 100 times as large, and it still wouldn’t describe the magnitude of anxiety that money, or rather the perceived lack of money, can “create” for people, me included. (I put the word “create” in quotes because we should realize that it isn’t the lack of money that is creating the anxiety – rather it is our interpretation and response to the situation that creates the anxiety.)
In my case, the next step after feeling that anxiety is usually to try to disconnect from the emotion so that I can approach the situation objectively, as an observer. I believe that years of meditation, even though inconsistent, have enabled me to accomplish this more often than not. I already know why I experience the anxiety, and where it comes from (the past), and I realize that the response is a knee-jerk, habituated response that serves no purpose other than to potentially start a downward spiraling cycle of emotional distress that will serve me no useful purpose.
Once I have disconnected from the emotion, I begin the problem-solving process, and this is where that voice inside of me steps up to the plate. And herein lies my conundrum: if I listen to that voice, what will I do if things DON’T unfold on their own, and that thought can fill me with anxiety and fear. On the other hand, if I don’t listen to that voice and I start planning, then I may be closing off myself to all the other potentially fantastic possibilities that are out there. That thought also fills me with anxiety, although a little less because it does feel safer (that’s coming from the past – habit).
So, I’m faced with this question: how do we reconcile the belief that, if we remain open to all possibilities, things will unfold as they should; with our past, comfortable and safe habit of planning to ensure that we reach a desired outcome?
Begin With Intention
As I have continued to coach, I have seen how these two “concepts” not only are NOT mutually exclusive, but also complement each other beautifully. It begins with intention. Our intention does not come from outside of ourselves (i.e. they say I should) or from past judgment (I should have, I could have), or from fear. It comes from our true, inner selves. It comes from our passion. It comes from our long-ignored desires that are screaming to be heard, to break free from the bonds that have restrained them for so long. When we are truly in touch with that inner core of ourselves, then our intention will naturally be an expression of that alignment with our purpose. And we can hold on to that intention, and plan, all the while remaining open to the possibilities that may change our “plan”. We can always change our path when those possibilities reveal themselves to us. We may even change or add to our intentions.
To make this more real, I’ll give you an example: After years of working in corporations and companies in both the public and private sector, working at jobs that were anywhere from unsatisfying to damaging and draining, I spent some time discovering what I really wanted from my life. My intention was to be open, explore without judgment, and discover what my passion was. In the process, I discovered that I wanted to support people in their journey through life. This could take many forms, of course, but my intention was very simple and broad, and I held on to it as I continued my inner exploration of what direction my path would go in, ultimately coming to the realization that my path was to be a life coach. But I didn’t really know much about life coach training, or how to set up a business. So I made a plan, which was based on my “aha” moment, which in turn arose out of my intention. My plan included enrolling in and graduating from a coach training school, and obtaining additional training in how to set up and market my coaching business.
But the process didn’t stop there. As I began coaching, I also realized that I had really enjoyed a stress reduction workshop that I had facilitated several months before attending coaching school. At the point of my realization, I could have said “no, I won’t pursue that, because that will get in the way of my coaching, I have to stick with the plan”. Instead, I was open to the possibilities of other valuable and enriching ways of supporting people in their life’s journey, so I also chose to continue my work in stress reduction. And so it continues.
Fear and Judgment as Obstacles
So, now we come back to the money issue. Knee jerk reactions to this perception of lack of financial abundance can be “I have to get another job”, or “I have to cut way back on my expenses”, or “I am a failure for not being able to provide adequately for my family”, and then start frantically planning from there. Fear and judgment have become obstacles to getting in touch with your intention. On the other hand, a more balanced approach, which keeps you aligned with your purpose, could be to intend to be comfortable financially. You will find that when you truly do this, you are able to really remain open to all the possibilities that are in line with that intention. For example, whereas in the first scenario, you might have started to frantically plan to look for an additional job, instead you might consider an opportunity you heard about to move to a less expensive apartment that has become available, or begin thinking about other ways to reduce your expenses. If you were frantically looking for another job, you may not have even been open to or considered the these other options. This is just one very simplistic example of what can happen when you remain open to the possibilities that are out there.
The challenge is, as always, to be aware when you are reacting or planning out of fear or in response to other external influences, as opposed to planning and following through based on your intuitive, trustworthy intention.
Planning and intention really can play very well together.