Beyond Plans

Nobody in their right minds would’ve ever admit to not have plans. Yes, you may have no idea what to do this evening, which particular car to buy and whether you’d like strawberry or banana flavored ice-cream on your cheat day. But these are all virtually meaningless nuances. Except for the car part, of course. Now, take a step back, then another and one more, just enough to see the big picture (Health and safety advice: while you do that, please beware of staircases, LEGO blocks and cliffs). Some sort of plan will be there. It might be a bit vague, e.g. getting married someday, to someone, hopefully not in Las Vegas. If you’re being honest with yourself, this plan will actually be more specific. On the other hand, it might be extremely concrete, even SMART (though you might want to be careful here) – for instance, matching your current salary with side gigs until the end of the year. You do have some idea on how you’d like your life to change.

And the worst that can happen is that you simply succeed.

Every single plan we make is based on our understanding of how the reality will develop in the future. This includes assumptions about how and why you will act over time. You simply extrapolate your experiences up to date. Likewise, you make the same assumptions regarding external factors. These include people, events, even the nature – literally, yet just to a point, the whole Universe.

Funnily enough, you are wrong in both cases.

I had my first insight into my actions sometime around early high school.

“These things that I did two years ago, were childish, now I am older, more experienced, now I know.”

Then I went to the university.

“These things I did in high school, were foolish, now I am adult, more experienced, now I know.”

Then I got my first serious job.

“These things I did at university were so immature, now I am more experienced, now I know.”

Inevitably, I can honestly say today, that some things I did just last year were not necessary, that I would’ve done them differently if given the opportunity. After all, now I am more experienced. Now I know.

It can (and will) go on forever. The phenomenon is called end-of-history illusion. People, regardless of their age, believe that they have experienced significant personal growth and changes in tastes up to the present moment, but will not substantially grow or mature in the future. The most likely reason for that is the ease of remembering past and difficulty in imagining the future. As it is that hard, we just expect ourselves to stay as we are at any given moment in time.

Based on this transient snapshot of yourself, you make far fetching plans.

It’s even worse than that, as we are not separate entities. Each of us is a part of multiple social puzzles of varied scale, embedded in the world of nature. And every single element of the riddle undergoes the same rapid development as you are. Only few things remain relatively stable, like day and night cycle or seasons of the year. That doesn’t really sound like a solid foundation for a plan now, does it?

On top of everything, the very act of planning disrupts the way things unveil. The fact you’ve given something a thought already changes the situation by itself. Observing the exact state of something removes uncertainty – or, as physicist would say, collapses its wave function. Or kills a cat. Now, I’m not saying that you should just observe and meditate on your weight, health, finances or whatever it is you want to change. Just remember what Dwight D. Eisenhower once said:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

So, given the limited power of your imagination and coherent instability of the world around you, would you still want just to succeed in your plans? A year from now, you’ll be much more of a person than you are now, in a way you cannot comprehend. Why wouldn’t your results be the same?

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