Recently, I saw a variation of a Tweet that said: ‘I don’t think I could have made it where I am in my life if I did not live by a plan’.
Every month or so I see a version of this sentiment and scroll past it rolling my eyes, but for some reason, reading it this time prompted a pause.
Since I was a teenager, generic azithromycin online au I have always been one to have a plan; always knowing what’s next, living without surprises, and having it all mapped out.
It might sound a bit dull and uptight, but it’s this non-spontaneous lifestyle that has helped me manage severe anxiety about the future.
Then the pandemic hit, and my plans got turned upside down.
Along with the immense stress of the pandemic, I went through heartbreak and lost someone close to me by suicide. Suddenly, the idea of living with a rigid plan just didn’t appeal.
I’m not the only one who’s had to let go of clinging on to plans for some semblance of control.
‘The pandemic threw everyone’s life plans out the window; even down to the financial loss of being furloughed and changing jobs,’ life and wellbeing coach Katherine Glyde tells Metro.co.uk.
‘The reality of people moving to freelancing, for many people, really impacted their ability to do “life stuff”. such as getting a mortgage.
‘But I think a lot of this thinking changed, -we’re seeing people changing the rigid plans and just really starting to live, such as people leaving London, not feeling like they have to do or live life a certain way.’
When my plan didn’t keep me safe, I felt utterly and completely lost. Then I made some major changes.
I quit my job and spent the rest of the summer processing things. I started to question my insistance on big life plans: why did I still think my ambitions needed to be so big? Why did I keep tying my self-worth to my career achievements?
Without a plan in mind, I started really living my life and doing things I genuinely love. For the first time in my life, I focused on being present without thinking about the next thing. I started living life without a tried and tested template by those who have come before in the form of my friends and family – who have essentially walked the same route as me.
In doing so, I started to really develop a strong internal compass by trusting myself and my decisions. I didn’t have to worry about set milestones or achievements I know I was pressuring myself to be ticking off.
I realised I was still doing things that were just as important to other people my age such as living alone, learning to drive, and figuring out a career, but the process I took was much more fragmented, cluttered, and unpredictable.
‘As I worked with more people in the pandemic, I realised that so many people were not just looking to change their lives but just need supported in breaking away from rigid plans,’ notes Katherine.
‘It was a case of reframing how people saw themselves, their goals in relation to their lives and people around them.
‘In a way this would help people reclaim their goals for themselves.’
This resonates with me. In choosing to reclaim my goals from the rigidity of my endless plans, I was able to learn how to feel comfortable in very uncomfortable situations – for example, when I was unemployed after I spontaneously decided to quit my job. It also gave me a chance to apply all the tools I have learned in my 10 years in and out of therapy, for the first time in a long time.
I started being really intentional in everything I did. I no longer scheduled time for fun but made sure everything I was doing was based on my enjoyment.
Rather than putting pressure on achieving anything I started to go into the ‘why’ for all my choices.
Psychotherapist Ellie Turner backs this approach. She’s worked with lots of people in recent years who are keen to move away from rigid life plans, and found that a key focus for them had to be on living by their internal values system, and finding a purpose that comes from within.
‘When I work with people, or even to my friends who choose to “go with the flow”, a common theme amongst them is that whatever happens, values will always define their actions,’ she notes. ‘The issue with taking this away makes it easy for us to follow other people’s goals and expectations which is what living with a rigid plan often falls into.
‘There needs to be accountability to “living without a plan” – people need to work out what’s important to them, why it is important, presumptions of themselves as a result. Because if goals are set on what you want you want to do, then it would feel so different.’
It is a cliché to say but the best things in life can happen when you don’t intend for them, but it’s true.
In fact, living life without having a set plan has lead to me achieving the most fulfilling outcomes. I ended up getting my Master’s degree, choosing to pursue different careers in fields I had no experience in, falling in love, and choosing to become a freelance writer as I have always wanted to do.
Do not mistake living without a plan with living without dreams, or for just doing nothing – amid the recession and the cost of living crisis, that’s just not possible for the majority of people.
Instead, it’s about reframing what matters, and letting go of the pressure for your life to fit neatly into predetermined ticklists and timelines.
Choosing to live life without a plan can take place in different forms.
Essentially, the reframing ‘go with the flow’ or ‘living life without a plan is actually people living within their boundaries.
The freedom and the endless opportunities that come with that are exhilarating. Knowing that I will have the freedom and independence to follow my heart any step of the way, knowing that I could be anything and anywhere next year, or in five years, or ten, is exciting. I love that feeling.
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