I am a planner. Identifying goals, making decisions about the best way to reach those goals, choosing among a variety of strategies are all easy for me. I have rarely been a person who struggles with decision-making; in truth, it could be said that I sometimes make decisions too quickly – and reap the consequences! However, in general I find the process of planning useful and rewarding. I am comfortable with planning ahead; I like buying season tickets to the symphony or to a theater company. I have rarely thought something like, “I don’t know whether I will want to do X in three weeks” – instead, if it is on my calendar and I have planned to do it, I do it.
I know that there are others in this world to whom the idea of planning what one is going to do in three weeks, or a week, or even tomorrow, is anathema. “How am I going to know how I will feel at that point?” “Let’s play it by ear.” (This last one is designed to make people like myself crazy.) To these individuals the experience of spontaneity is of high value. Checking in with one’s self in the moment, asking what is going on for you right now, being willing to listen to the moment-to-moment inner knowing that can guide decision-making, is paramount.
Most of us live somewhere in between these two extremes. One of the dimensions measured by the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI – www.meyersbriggs.org) is that of comfort with planning vs. comfort with spontaneity (the J-P dimension). Not surprisingly, I am pretty far toward the J side. One of the things I appreciate about the MBTI information is that neither of these positions is wrong. The information about one’s self is helpful in understanding self and in understanding others.
A recent set of experiences, however, has helped me to challenge my own natural preference for planning.
I got a new knee.
Prior to this very significant surgery, I laid plans to manage what I perceived to be all contingencies. Knowing I would be out of work for a time, I arranged coverage for clients who would need it. I borrowed or bought equipment that I would need for recovery. I estimated the time I would be out of the office and planed with my clients accordingly. Everything was in order.
However – best-laid plans.
This phrase, well-known for its reference to the poem, “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, essentially says that even the best-laid plans can be overturned by external and unexpected events. The mouse’s nest was torn apart by an unexpected plow, and my plans for an easy and uneventful recovery were challenged by the realities of a very hard operation and some unexpected complications that have extended the timeline well beyond what I had hoped.
So – I am NOT yet back at work; I am NOT yet driving; I am NOT yet fully recovered after one month (which was my plan, even though I was told that the acute recovery period is generally six to eight weeks with a right knee replacement). MY plan was to beat the odds, be the superstar patient who was off pain medication in two weeks, driving in three, and back to full functioning in four.
Well, my friends, today is four weeks, and I am not doing any of those things. While I am certainly on the road to recovery, the time line is longer, perhaps, even than the average recovery would be.
Today, therefore, I am living into the other side of the MBTI dimension – the side that focuses on present moment. I am asking myself questions like – “What do you need right this minute?” “What would help right now?” While I still must plan such things as rides to Physical Therapy, I am much more in the moment than I am used to being. I am finding it strange, but strangely comforting as well.
Perhaps I will grow through this experience into being a more balanced person, who both plans, and allows herself to know that sometimes plans don’t work out, and that’s ok.
Where do you fall on this continuum?