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Why Are We So Bad At Planning? A Simple Solution

RomoloTavani via Getty Images

Perhaps you're like me on this. I find it very difficult to think very far into the future.

Not only do I find it difficult to think about, I find it difficult to care about.

It's as though all my caring-about energy has been used up by the vividly looming impending months (world events don't help!) and the hazier stuff a year or 10 down the line is like a sort of indistinct background fog. It's as unreal as science fiction, it might not happen. We're free to dream up anything, which can be fun, but is indicative of something more dangerous...

1) We must associate the future with ongoing progress

What would happen if, instead of envisioning our future as a static material tableau (velvet throne, someone feeding us grapes, etc) we saw it as a tiny part of a giant rolling wheel of stuff, which anything might fall off at any point. The more forcefully that life has taught us: "everything changes beyond your control", the more we shy away from the truth of that image, and of making plans of even moderate scope. But constant change is real and beautiful. The way to handle it is to plan to develop things that develop! Plan future skills and adaptability, not a Santa's List of goodies we'll have when we finally 'arrive'.

2) We must stop thinking of the future as a control thief

We resist planning because we think what we're giving up is our sense of control. Irrational, isn't it? We think that by making a decision, by plotting out a path, we're missing out on all the other infinite paths and something better - better than the thing we want - might befall us by virtue of destiny. When the truth is: our own future is one of the few things we do have any control over!

But we fight it. We don't know who that hazy future-me is, but we're pretty sure they have nothing to do with us, right now. We don't want any part of that weird sci-fi shit.

3) We must embrace the fact that time WILL pass

Time passes. What an awful, mortality-inducing idea. We are terrible, in the modern West, at understanding the punctuation that entropy and decay bring to our existence and accepting the 'dark side' of growth and development. We'd rather keep projecting fantasy images onto the distant haze than embrace the beautiful fact right before our eyes that everything changes, everything grows, and everything in the universe rolls on, as it always has since time began. We'd rather cling to the hope that we might be the first exception to the laws of nature ever, in the history of the universe.

The ultimate point of growth is to have your own seeds to share. What qualities, skills and wisdom will you have to give away in 5, 10 or 20 years time?

This post first appeared in my Creativity Clinic newsletter and blog, you can sign up here.

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