Planning With Patience – Exercises to Help Stay in The Now While Looking Ahead

I suck at waiting.

I am really, truly, terribly awful at it.

Waiting is an especially difficult exercise when I can see something coming down the pike but it’s not… quite… here yet. Perfect example; in May, I moved into a room that opened up in my boyfriend’s apartment. I had waited for what felt like a lifetime, but was actually only a few months, to get out of the apartment I was living in and finally get to move in with him. Then, I thought, I’d be able to do x y and z. Then I’d be happier! Now, we’re gearing up to move into our own apartment in two weeks, and I have had a layout of this place, complete with a detailed checklist in my head (and an excel sheet) since the day we signed the lease over two months ago. Now that I’ve got my plan of attack, and my Amazon list refreshed and ready to go, I’m counting down the days, torturing myself with the thoughts of how much better life would be if I just lived in that apartment now. THEN, I’d be able to do x, y, and z, and I’d undoubtedly be happier!

These are times when I need to remind myself that life just doesn’t work that way.

I know that if I continue to live out this pattern, I’ll never really be happy with what I have right now. I’ll always be looking at what my next job title will be while the ink is still wet on a new contract, or which country I should visit next after boarding the plane to leave on a vacation I just spent months planning, or what I should have for dinner tomorrow after finishing breakfast today. Don’t these all seem both ridiculous and excruciatingly familiar?

We’re all human. It’s in our nature to keep moving, and plan for the next thing to come. Planning helps us feel secure and in control of a situation, even if the situation itself seems scary and new. Planning helps to hold us accountable, and gives us some sense of security in an otherwise unstable world. Or, it’s just a great way to make sure we’ve got sufficient snacks lined up for a long hike; plans come in all shapes and sizes. For me, planning helps to utilize the time I’d spend pining over the next thing down the line in a more efficient way, and I tell myself that I’m doing it so that I’ll be more prepared for when that thing comes along, whatever it may be. But when planning starts to consume you by devouring your time, energy, focus, and even happiness, that’s when it becomes a problem, and maybe it’s time to reevaluate how you approach it.

  • Remind Yourself of a Time Planning Went Wrong, and the World Didn’t End

Back in February, my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip to Costa Rica. It was our one year anniversary, both of our birthdays, and Valentine’s Day all within the span of two weeks, and since we couldn’t move in together quite yet (this is how antsy I got, guys, I mean come on), we decided to take a trip. I spent MONTHS emailing hotels, researching what our itinerary should be given our timeframe and the weather, which zip lining locations were best for people who were terrified of heights, where we were most likely to see little baby sloths, etc. and so on. All this went into an excel sheet, mapped out down to the hour, with addresses, phone numbers, and backups all set up if, god forbid, something fell through last minute. Then a snow storm hit Boston, and our flight was cancelled. We didn’t know this until hours after, and by the time we reached out to Jet Blue, all the flights for the next four days were booked solid. I was crushed; I felt so angry that all my planning was effectively thrown out the window! We had to completely change our itinerary, cancel two hotels and book two new ones, cancel a few day trips because they no longer matched our timeline, and we had to wait, in Boston, in the snow, when we would have been sitting on a beach in paradise.

Did you catch the part where we still got to go to Costa Rica? Our plans weren’t dashed, they were shifted, and we ended up having an amazing time despite having to cancel some activities; actually, because of that, we got to experience plenty of stuff that we wouldn’t have otherwise because my plan was so rigid that there was little room for flexibility. Planning and obsessing for months over this thing in the end had little impact on what our vacation ended up looking like, and thinking back, though the initial shock of change hurt in the moment, the trip couldn’t have gone any better.

  • Become Familiar With the Term “Luxury Problems”

All of the above are pretty much what I’d consider the epitome of “luxury problems”. This was in February of 2017. In February 2016, I was crashing on a friend’s couch, keeping my fingers crossed that I’d be able to land a job I had applied for and really wanted, not because I thought it would be a good career move, but because I could barely afford to eat every day (and a bed of my own to sleep in would be nice; it had been 8 months at that point). Back then, I would have given anything to get the chance to experience the hiccups mentioned above. My life didn’t revert back to what it was a year prior because my flight got cancelled. We just didn’t get to hang out at the wildlife sanctuary I wanted to visit. It was a vacation, that’s a luxury right there. My life would not have changed really, significantly at all if we had not gotten to chill out on a beach with capuchins. My boyfriend and I are both white Americans, but there were many people who were barred from traveling to see family, get to work, get to school, or get out of a terrifying ordeal during that time because of the disgusting, misguided, dangerous ban that what’s-his-face had initiated just a week or so prior, because they are not. Who the hell was I to mope over a minor change of plans when people’s lives were being upended that same day?

  • Remember How Eager You Were To Get The Thing You’re Now Tired Of

I am now at a point in my life where I’m really thinking about my career. I’ve found myself in a great industry that I’m eager to learn more about and grow in, but my current position is starting to feel a bit draining and tiresome; just doing the same thing day in and day out. Yes, this is the job that in step 2 I was crossing my fingers to get. The one that I was hoping to get so that I could afford to eat. Right there, when I start thinking about how far I’ve come, and how badly I wanted this thing when I didn’t yet have it, I start to see how misguided my thought process surrounding it is becoming. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t work towards bettering yourself, personally or professionally! But if the change you’re working towards doesn’t happen right away, remember the seat you were sitting in when you were hoping against hope to get the thing you now have and are now growing tired of.

Ambition is a wonderful thing, as is planning. There is nothing inherently wrong about planning ahead and making sure all your ducks, geese, or little egrets are in order; plus, working towards a goal is one of the most admirable attributes a person can have. Standing in opposition of that trait is impatience, and they unfortunately tend to go hand in hand. Impatience can render us blind against the good we have in our lives in the now. Right now I have a life that I could have never dreamed for myself a year and a half ago, and if I didn’t have ambition or a plan, I wouldn’t have any of the things that make up my life today. And even though my 2017 looks so vastly different from the beginning of my 2016 (or pretty much all of 2015, but that’s a story for another day), and even though I’m sitting here writing about helpful tips to combat impatience, I still need to sit myself down and remind myself to be patient and grateful, every single day, because my mind will always just naturally go right on to the next thing. Hell, I started writing this piece as a reminder to my damn self that I need to follow my own advice! Wanting more, now, is so human it’s laughable; we always want the next, bigger, brighter, better thing, and that’s fine – it’s typically good! We should want better things for ourselves. But until we can sit in the now, look around us, and appreciate what we have today, we’ll never be truly happy – I’m willing to bet a bucket of little baby sloths on it.

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