“Joy is being willing for things to be as they are.”  -Charlotte Joko Beck

I am not much of a planner any more. Even as my tiny homespun love company has finally moved into the growth stage of being able to track and predict sales data, I still balk at making plans. For most of my adult life, I have witnessed my best laid plans for how things will go, from the dozens of business plans I have written and rewritten, to the decades that I planned for the birth and lives of my four children enough to know that if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.  In many ways giving up this idea that I set the plan for my life has come to feel like a profound form of liberty. Finally coming to the place where I lead my life with the acknowledgement of all that I know that I don’t know not only gets me off the hook of anxiety about how it will all turn out, but even more importantly it builds my faith in life. Here are the 3 practices that I have cultivated to give up planning.

Releasing Plans in Favor of Intentions

Becoming comfortable with the changing currents of life, big surprises that we can’t really ever plan for like unexpected pregnancies, natural disasters, random meetings, or car accidents has become more manageable as I have let go creating pictures in my head of what things might look like and focused instead on how I will experience or feel about what is happening, because really how we think about what is happening at any given moment is the most powerful pivot point in any situation.   For me this is heavy lifting in creating personal intentions.  Every year at Independence Day, I choose 100 intentions, aspirations and affirmations about how I want to think that becomes a reliable filter for all the ways that the plans never quite come out the way I pictured.  My son who works in finance now calls it “too many inputs to know what will come out.”

Developing Spiritual Clarity

My other son once had a really inspirational basketball coach who would always remind the boys when he took them off the court- “If it doesn’t work in your head, how will it work out there???” His words often come to mind when I think of the kind of moment-to-moment well-thought-out actions that allow us to execute well even when faced with the unnerving space of the ground shifting underfoot. Focusing my attention on how I want to think is the key to getting me out of reacting and often, over-reacting, to the unanticipated aspects of what is actually happening.  The more that I work on how I process internally, the more freedom I experience from all that I cannot control.

Missing the Opportunity in the Unexpected

I remember the days and sometimes weeks that I was lost to my inability, even obsession, over not accepting how things were different than I thought or expected them to be. I have used up much unnecessary adrenaline and probably took years off my life, perseverating about a plan that didn’t quite come together or the profound challenges of how raising a family is anything but what you expect.  I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that while I was lost focusing on the lost plan, I was completely missing an opening that often evolved into an opportunity that I could have never imagined. The truth is that when you focus instead on how you think and decide to love life as it happens, the experience of real freedom blossoms.  We discover that, in fact, life always finds its way through, and that the unexpected almost always ends up better than what you could have imagined yourself.

Finding the joy in letting things be what they are is a pure form of freedom.  It allows you to elevate the only thing you can really control – which is always inside.