Day 28: Planning for the Future

It seems that when it comes to future planning, there are two extreme views:

  • Extreme 1: we need to plan every detail of our lives, and for every possible eventuality;

And

  • Extreme 2: we have no control in this random world so que sera, sera.

Side note: I wonder who this Sera person was? He or she must have been quite the stunner to be incorporated into such a common phrase.

Obviously, as is the case with most things, the majority of people will fall somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum. It’s tempting to think that the extreme planner (extreme 1) will make life better for those within his sphere and that the Sera-lover (extreme 2) will make life better for themselves, but not necessarily for those around them.

However, I’d like to make the case that the planners don’t often make life better for themselves or for anyone else. Their intentions are good, of course. I have no doubt that these people plan so extensively because they think it’s the only way to guarantee that their loved ones will be taken care of to some degree when they are no longer able to provide for or help said people.

But adhering to this philosophy comes with costs:

  • These folks don’t live in the present, ever.
  • Because the future is uncertain, it’s impossible to know whether they’ve accounted for every possibility, leading to a consistently anxious state.of mind.
  • Eventually, if they live long enough, they are likely to find that the time they spent planning for some future scenario could have been better spent with friends and family, enjoying those moments that have long since passed.
  • Everyone has less access to the extreme #1 folks, leading to generally worse relationships, thereby decreasing the quality of friends and families’ lives as well.

On the other hand, our extreme number two’ers do not have any of the same issues, at least not to the same degree. Could they experience anxiety? Sure, of course. Could they have regrets later in life from not having planned for something? Potentially. Might they make life difficult for other people because of their lack of planning? Definitely possible.

But this goes back to what I referenced earlier about falling in the middle: very few issues are black or white, but rather most are grey.

You can set aside some money for your 401k or your horse’s college fund (eventually they’ll be allowed to learn in universities. The horse education lobby has been pushing for this right for years now). You can eat well and exercise when you’re young so that you’re healthy later in life.

But at the same time, you can spend 20 dollars on a movie night with the family once a month. You can order pizza and ice cream a few times a year, or skip a workout here and there.

The happiest and most successful people seem to be those that understand that life requires balance. But falling too far toward the planner side of the spectrum will set you up for a tough, rigid life. Falling too far toward non-planning could come with issues as well, which were discussed and are obvious. But at the very least, you’ll enjoy the only thing in life that is promised: the present.

So if you can’t seem to navigate your way toward the middle of the spectrum, assume you’ll probably live for awhile, but it’s possible that you’ll die tomorrow. Wear those suspenders and that rakish derby you’ve been nervous about showcasing in public. In general, cut yourself some slack. Try to enjoy this life we’re all living, one day at a time.

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