Plans are nothing, planning is everything

You might have noticed that I’ve been on hiatus for a while. I didn’t plan for that — it just happened — but I think I’m better for it.

After my last post, I had a dozen ideas floating around as to what I might write next, but one by one I crossed them out. I had a post planned about my breastfeeding journey, but decided it was too personal and that I’m not ready to write that story just yet. I had another post planned about my opinion on telling children to stand up for themselves when confronted with bully behaviour, but decided the idea needed more thought before I could write a decent piece on it. I thought about writing something on the morning walks that Pippin and I have started taking together, but when I sat down to write, nothing came out.

And thus entered the dreaded writer’s block. (Don’t worry, this is not a post about writer’s block.)

I don’t think that writer’s block is really what it feels like at the time. It’s not that I had nothing to say. I have countless stories to share. Writer’s block is that paralysing feeling of your mind shutting down whenever you try to share those stories. I was staring at a blank page with my mind in overdrive, working against me; I couldn’t relax and let the words flow. I was over-thinking, over-analysing, over-editing my thoughts and feelings.

So, in essence, writer’s block was exactly what I needed to force myself to take a break — to step back and look at my plans differently.

There’s a saying: “no plan survives contact with the enemy.”

This past week I’ve been thinking about that saying a lot. The saying actually refers to a battle plan meeting an opposing army; no amount of planning is adequate preparation for a single unexpected action from the enemy. But it applies to almost any aspect of life. No writing plan survives contact with the writer. No parenting plan survives contact with the child. No birth plan survives contact with labour.

Often, when my plan has been so thrown off by outside forces, I tend to look back and think, “should I even bother to plan at all?”

Is it a waste of time to try to create some semblance of a routine for kids that are so clearly chaotic and unpredictable? Am I getting my hopes up by envisioning what my ideal labour would be like, since we all know that labour can, and usually does, go drastically off plan? And maybe writing isn’t for me after all.

But this week something was different. (Maybe it was the book I’ve been reading over the last week: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry — a fun quick read, by the way, for any lover of books. A recurring theme in the book is the way that we react differently to the same story at different points in life. I guess I’m at the right point in my life for this broken plan to actually mean something to me.)

During my break, I was able to take a long look at the types of posts I was trying to write, and realize that half of them are things I don’t really want to write about. I was able to clear out the irrelevant post ideas, and focus on the few that I’m really looking forward to writing, and approach them with a clear mind. That process of eliminating posts, not just “for now” but “forever,” is oddly gratifying. It’s like taking a weight off my shoulders.

I’m able to do that because I had a plan to begin with. I had a vision for what I want this blog to be, and I realized that I was being thrown off course. After a few changes, I got myself back on course. The plan is a bit different now, but the end goal is the same. Without having that initial vision, that end goal, I would find it extremely difficult to pinpoint the problem and get back on track. I might be able to write after having writer’s block, but I’m not sure I’d be writing on play, unpenned.

Planning is like a journey

Imagine you’re travelling by foot. You’ve got your bag packed, the weather’s great, and you’re well on your way. Everything is going smoothly. Your plan is to walk in a straight line until you reach your destination.

But then, imagine that there are hundreds of other people walking in every direction around you. You’re being pushed and pulled with every step. How likely do you think it would be that you would be able to continue in the same direction without getting thrown off course? The plan is officially useless.

Now imagine that you were originally travelling toward a landmark. Let’s say it’s something tall like the CN Tower. You can see it over the tops of people’s heads. Now, how likely is it that you would be able to move towards that goal, regardless of how many people were in the way?

In any aspect of life, there are a million and one things ready to throw you off course.

If you can’t see your destination, you’ll have a hard time reaching it. Plans mean nothing when it’s the heat of the moment. You can have the perfect plan in your mind, but no one else is following your plan. Certainly, God has His own plan and, no matter how great your plan may be, His plan trumps yours.

It’s the act of planning that leads to having an end goal, and leads to knowing various routes to reaching that goal. You may get thrown off course, but your act of planning helps you get back on track, even if the plan has now changed.

Similarly, with parenting, there is not a day that my plan has ever been executed exactly as imagined. In fact, I have never come close to doing it. I can plan my day around naps, mealtimes, the timings of playgroups, but in the end, children are children. One kid will decide that 10am is too early for a snack, and the other will inexplicably be hungry ten minutes after a meal. One will decide that 12pm is not nap time after all, and eventually pass out two hours before bedtime. My plans change constantly, but my end goal of giving my children everything they need to thrive will stay the same.

When it comes to birth plans, people often say not to bother making one. But the way I see it, although it may not happen as you planned it, the importance lies in making the plan itself. In educating yourself and making decisions for yourself and your family. Planning is part of the process of making things happen. If you want a vaginal delivery, then plan for it. If you want a home birth, plan for it. The more planning, the better your chances. And when things go off course, there is an end goal to steer it back to. Plans may change from vaginal birth to C-section, from spontaneous labour to induction, from home birth to hospital, but the end goal of a healthy baby and healthy mom remain.

The important thing in all cases is not to get attached to the plan. Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.

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4 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more 🙂 The planning process + visualization makes all the difference. Even if it’s just mentally planning for the day ahead – it makes all the difference in keeping you focused and feeling on purpose. Great post 🙂

    1. Yes! I can look back at my best and worst days and sometimes the only thing that really differentiates them is the mindset I had at the time. Did I feel like I was in control despite the situation, or did I feel in over my head and powerless?

  2. LOVE the military quote. This is honestly one of my favourite posts. Couldn’t help but think about Ben Franklin’s quote: “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
    Glad to have you back 🙂

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