A Plan for 2015

Not so long ago, 2015 was the date of the dun, dun, dun…FUTURE. As kids we imagined this future while reading copies of Boy’s Life, sketching our hovercraft (that would be built with mom’s Electrolux). Our village of Sea Monkeys would be grown by now with families of their own…the best laid plans. Then again, I don’t think the world was ready for our flying vacuum, or communities of Sea Monkeys.

What is the world ready for? What are you ready for? Are you making plans?

The thing about making plans is that they rarely go as planned. It’s fantastic to set goals and work hard, but it’s important to leave room for what you can’t plan…life. Take your schedule with a healthy dose of trust, knowing that life will always give you twists and turns. Map the journey but don’t get discouraged when you take a wrong bend; it’s leading you to the scenic route you didn’t even know existed.

Back in college a professor assigned us to write a list of 100 things we’d do in our lifetime. He told us to “dream big.” I was young enough to take the assignment seriously. Eighteen and immortal, my list was longer than 100 things…ha! I was going to change the world and on top of that make a million bucks before I turned thirty, get a Ph.D. in marriage family therapy and open a clinic, and yes read ALL of the classics. Good intentioned stuff. Afterwards the professor told us if we accomplished even a quarter of what we’d written on our lists, we’d be some of the most successful people around. But as I’ve come to experience life, I realize now his advice, however well-intentioned, was wrong.

Because “success” doesn’t come from ticking off a to-do list and it’s not about how much money you make or the degrees you acquire or the stuff you can cram into your days. Success has nothing to do with reading the classics, although it can, if it’s what you truly love and want to do.

Success has to come from within. It’s got to be your own vision of what you want for your life, not what someone else has defined or what society has defined. And here’s what my professor never told me about success (but I’m telling you): You can’t have it all. Not all at once and maybe never.

Alain de Botton in his lecture, A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy Of Success, shares this philosophy:

“You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t. So any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on.”

There is wisdom in accepting that you can’t do everything and anything. Knowing this will prevent guilt and discouragement. Thinking you can somehow balance a career and motherhood and eat vegan and keep up with Pinterest and still make time for yoga and whatever else is just not reality. It’s not fair. It’s like trying to enjoy the ocean view while you’re drowning.

Had I stuck to the list I wrote in college, I’d be in a very different place now. I wouldn’t have moved outside the US–I’d have been too busy getting degrees and forging my career–I might not have even had four children, I would have never met the people I’ve become friends with around the globe or gained an education gleaned by experience. I would have missed out on the best BEST parts of my life!

We use the term “Dream Big,” but what does that mean? How big? Why does it have to be so BIG? What would happen if we dreamed small…focused on one small but meaningful goal/project/endeavor and gave our energies to that?

Vincent Van Gogh said, “I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God’s help I shall succeed.”

In Van Gogh’s lifetime he never felt successful but he stayed passionately in pursuit of his one goal, his personal vision and gave the world not only his art, but perhaps more importantly, a model for what success means.

It’s important to strive. We should always be learning, always stretching ourselves. But stay open to the possibilities. Van Gogh also said, “I’m not an adventurer by choice but by fate.” In life we’re all fated to be adventurers. We all sojourn. Not one of us has the map from beginning to end. We forge ahead and when we reach unfamiliar terrain we have to slow down and take it one step at a time. But wherever you are in your journey, be thankful you’re on it. Be grateful you’ve got today and the next to be where you are, even if you’re not where you want to be yet.

The Roman philosopher Horace admonished,

“Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”

I’ve got my goals for 2015. I’m sure they won’t all go as planned, but I’m equally certain that whatever happens it will be exactly what needs to happen for me to grow and learn. What matters most, is that I’m with the people I love, doing the things I love. “I tell you, the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more artistic than to love people.” Van Gogh
“Be the author of your own ambition,” Alain de Botton says, “Make sure [y]our ideas of success are truly [y]our own.” If you do that then 2015 is going to be a great year; you can plan on it!



3 Comments on “A Plan for 2015

  1. I used to tell my children, “Wherever you are, be there till you leave.” They didn’t understand it at first, but I’d point out when it was relevant (a soccer game they’re losing, a party that’s boring) and now they own it. It’s amazing what gifts we receive when we make the best of what we have.

    • That is such a valuable message to teach your kids!! Own it!! I’m going to write that down and stick it on the fridge.

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