I had planned that my first blog back from vacation was going to be about the differences in parenting styles in different countries. Then my friend Grace Attard planted a different seed in my mind with a Facebook post I read at 4:00 a.m. this morning—because unlike planned, I had trouble sleeping. And after reading that post, all my planning went out the window.
Yes, you guessed right. I am a planner. I like to think ahead and plan. And, of course, I have family members who mirror for me the opposite energy that I am not always in touch with, the spontaneous energy. When I am challenged with their approach to life, I like to say they are incapable of planning or unwilling to plan even a day in advance! I get infuriated how they can feel okay about “flying by the seed of their pants” without worrying about any consequences. But I do know very well that they just have a different view of life in general and specifically regarding the merits of planning.
There is a voice in me that feels there is such a thing as “wasting time”. That same voice also says that you can ensure everybody is happy by planning ahead and ensuring that no obligations are forgotten. It says planning is an effective use of the limited time we are given. It also says that people who plan are bound to be more successful, make less mistakes, be financially better off, be happier, and so on. While that might sometimes be right, it isn’t necessarily always the case. Sometimes spontaneous last-minute gut-decisions turn out better than long-term planning.
When it comes to vacations, I have learned that the best moments, the ones that stay in your memory forever, the ones that we still reminisce about years later, are the ones that were not planned. When we were in Amsterdam and we suddenly found ourselves maneuvering through a sea of bicycles just after we arrived by train. Or when we were in Paris and we stumbled upon the perfect little art exhibition, much better than lining up to get into the Louvre. Or when we were in Barcelona and we happened to come across the perfect charm for my mother’s charm bracelet, in the city she loved so much. Or when we stood in the centre of an ancient stone circle in England and the energy was incredibly strong. Or when in Brussels, the waiter photo-bombed our picture and made us laugh. And the list goes on.
And then there was the summer when I took a trip to Quebec City with my closest girlfriend and our daughters. I got so sick with a sinus infection on the plane that she had to take care of me and the kids for the first three days. Even an unplanned negative event like that, I deeply cherish because the experience was filled with love. It was filled with acceptance and going with the flow.
My favourite childhood memories are also those of spontaneous little moments. I have that memory of my conservative, self-controlled father showing us kids how to do a cartwheel in the backyard of a little cottage in England where we were vacationing. For just a short moment in time he let us see a completely different energy from him: the energy of spontaneity, non-sense and joy, prompted by the fact that we were on vacation.
Ironically, the woman sitting next to me on the plane last night was reading the book “Wait. The Useful Art of Procrastination”, which shows that I ended up in the seat next to her after switching with another passenger not by coincidence but by synchronicity. As I am reading over her shoulder “…if you don’t know how to manage time, time can rule you like a tyrant”, I wonder what an appropriate way of managing time might be. The author Frank Partnoy also writes, “Time is a slippery concept, and we are often wrong about it…”
I have been ruled by the feeling of not having enough time or of not having used time efficiently. That is a slippery concept because it is a completely subjective experience. As I am sitting on the plane, the question arises if I should be using my time efficiently and should be working on my computer—like I had planned—or if I should be reading for work (also planned), or if I can give myself permission to watch a second movie. I could have forced myself to stick with the original plan but the vacation feeling was still lingering in me, so the movie won over the other two options. Having made that decision, I then had the choice to feel like I am wasting time or, in other words, like I am procrastinating doing my work. Or I could really enjoy the time I had on the plane. I believe in the first case I would have allowed time to rule me like a tyrant.
At the end of a wonderful vacation, the lady next to me and her book gave me another reminder to not always ask whether something is a “waste of time” and to see the value of not always operating according to plan.
A vacation for me is a vacation away from home, from work, from obligations, but most of all it is a vacation away from my planner self. A perfect invitation to live in the moment, to “wing it”, to allow wonderful surprises to unfold. It is an opportunity to just live in the day, to see what we come across as we embark on a little adventure.
When have you last taken a vacation away from your planner self, or your perfectionist self, or your pleaser self? When have you last enjoyed the moment without asking “What is on the agenda next?” “Is this situation perfect?” or “Am I making everybody else happy?”
And by that I don’t even mean a literal vacation. Let’s all give ourselves a vacation day or at least a few vacation hours each week when we are able to shed our planner self and completely live in the wonderful magical moment of everything that is possible.
Life and Belief Change Coaching
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