The Perils of Being a Planner

That’s the problem with me: I’m a planner. It is an integral part of my life. I plan for things to go as planned. I plan for the future. I strategize about everything. I sort of expect things—no, I do expect things—to continue in a linear fashion more or less. Yes, they’ll change with time, but for the most part, they’ll remain on the same track. Toward the same destination, you know? But once things deviate from the original plan, everything that I’ve penciled into my mental planner, well, they disappear. Then, I start to grapple with my problems. And what’s my answer? I recommence my planning and start from the infamous square one, scheming another plan of grandeur. But I’m pretty sure—okay, I’m positive—that I’m not the only one who wrestles with the idea of planning and its consequences.

Truth be told, it is culturally and socially embedded in humans to plan and to set goals for the future. As much weight as the truism holds that it is momentous to live in the present—to be physically, emotionally and spiritually there and feel the surroundings that encircle people—tensions still arise between the present and the future. This particular space, nestled between now and tomorrow, is uncanny: it resurfaces unconsciously.

Rather than relishing the present, people are invariably told to look as far into the future as they can, to map out a five-year plan or to approximate the time one who will spent with a significant other before he or she becomes insignificant in their lives again. People plan for different stages of their lives. For example, they expect to live in their apartments for X number of years before moving in with someone or into another house. People expect job or internship offers to come by a certain time, as long as they play their cards right.

Just take a look at some celebrity couples: they have just announced their engagement and are getting ready to set up for their wedding preparations, but what do you know? Pregnancy salutes the couple. The duo then has to put marital bliss to the back burner and make room for a baby. Humans are wired to plan. Sometimes, this means devising secondary plans when the initial plan goes haywire. In the work force, companies constantly have a timeline, a particular vision, always inquiring of their employees where they see themselves in a few years from now. Restaurants that are hot commodities mandate reservations to be booked at least one month in advance. Otherwise, expect to dine at the corner restaurant down the street that seems to be misplaced. And then, there are those moments—sometimes, people just have those extraordinary, comprehensive plans that practically smell like the Next Big Thing, but they require both attention and nurture. Thus, in order for operations to perform smoothly, planning ahead is key.

At the same rate, society deprecates those who cannot or have not hatched a plan for the weekend or for the next month, per se. If people are uncertain of their weekend plans or incapable of regurgitating their tentative blueprint for spring break, they are patronized immediately (“How do you not know what you’ll be doing?”). When individuals lack a sense of urgency, they suddenly garner attention—the deplorable type of attention—given their out of sight initiatives for the future that may be either blurred or wholly nonexistent.

So, of course, I measure out my life in coffee spoons. I want to take precautions—by my standards, taking precautions means brewing plans as quickly as I can—to avoid the slippery slope of being categorized as the “non-planner.” Perhaps it is the beauty of having some sort of direction that makes people, including myself, gain a sense of togetherness and find comfort in the future because plans somehow make tomorrow that much more promising. Or maybe planning provides people the opportunity to gather themselves like a gathering storm to control, or shall I say, to attempt to control, an uncontrollable future.

When the long day closes, sometimes plans do not go as planned much to everyone’s dismay. Plans—those that range from the most tentative to the most definitive—suddenly bevel to the left or the right and do not transpire as steadily as people hope. It is then safe to proclaim that planning has the deadly power to warp people’s minds. When plans fail, they have the capacity to occupy a space that people would never imagine. They leave people with a letdown and the opposite sentiments of feeling victorious. People quickly realize they cannot conquer the future anymore. This reality becomes too blunt, too brutal. Naturally, people’s perception and vision become distorted—violated to say the least. All notions of confidence and security are torn apart.

Admittedly, I perceive planning as a way for people to beat the time, for it is a force to be reckoned with—in hindsight, of course. It makes tomorrow and the next year seem much more clearer and goals much more attainable. Yet, planning also has the ability to complicate life, notably the divide between the present and the future. It steers people from breathing the present air, smelling the flowers and the like. Somehow, the act of planning always delivers obstacles to people to simply throw them off the path, merely to remind them to stop planning too much into the future. Perhaps, one day I will learn. I will learn to cease my mind from scheming plans that are too extensive or elaborate. But it won’t be today. Or tomorrow.

You can read more from Stacy Chan on her blog.

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