A friend in college used to tell me about her five-year plan. It was the typical pre-packaged plan: degree, job, marriage, kids, happiness…
I couldn’t fathom a plan. I was fascinated by the vastness of the world and possibility. I believed in the spontaneity of spirit and the power of presence and other alliterative philosophies. Having a plan seemed antithetical to living genuinely and I wanted to live a genuine life.
“Live in the moment.” That was my plan.
The only goal was to be authentic. An authentic response to each moment should lead to an authentic life.
It did. I authentically traveled and authentically climbed mountains. I authentically partied or authentically stayed home. I authentically ate food and authentically brushed my teeth. I felt deeply alive at times.
But I also began to feel stagnant. The challenges posed from moment to moment had all been encountered and I wanted something greater than the sum of the parts. Drifting aimlessly I had bumped into all the surrounding obstacles. Moving to new places provided new obstacles, but they always turned out to be the same shape.
Now I believe that an authentic life is more than an honest response to each moment. An authentic life also requires an aim. I was drifting into the same obstacles because I had nowhere to go. A purpose demands leaving the harbor and it’s safety.
The irony is that I thought having no goals would take me into the metaphorical sea of possibility. This was a misinformed reaction to bad goals. What if the goal is something bigger than the consumer dream? What if the goal is to grow? What if the goal is to actualize?
That would require a plan. Not only would it require a plan, it would absorb all other plans.
I’ll close by bringing this abstract idea back to earth with an example:
When applying to grad school this fall my applications were split between education and religious studies. I really want to study religion and psychology, but parts of me were worried: “what if the economy gets worse, what if I can’t find a job, what if…?” A Master’s in Education sounded good in light of these doubts, but those doubts are the very thing I’m trying to grow away from. The doubt was not about outside circumstance, it was about my ability to overcome outside circumstance.
Perhaps this singular strategy sounds reckless and unsafe. But as a dear friend said: “there’s no room for caution in hope.”