In 2016, I decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions. For most of my life I had been addicted to making plans but this year, I decided to break my routine, plan less and live more. In that spirit of spontaneity, I took a random trip to Europe and welcomed the new year in Barcelona. I figured that if I did something I had never done in a place I’d never been, 2016 would turn out to be quite unlike any other year.
I was right.
By January 3, 2016, a series of mishaps had me passing through three different countries and three different time zones in as many days. My luggage was lost, my money had run out, I was sick with some weird, aggressive European flu and having an epic meltdown at Heathrow airport because I was not allowed to board my (last chance, hard-won) flight home from London. It was bad, y’all. My face was a mess of snot and tears, my voice was shot and I was on my hands and knees in 3-day-old clothes, alarming airport security with my Jodeci-level begging. How I found myself in that scenario is a story for another time, but let’s just say it spawned a heroic tale I’ve nicknamed “Strandsterdam 2016”.
The first week of the year alone was packed with enough excitement (and calamity) to last me the next 12 months, but alas, the cosmos didn’t stop there. As it did for many, 2016 ended up throwing a lot of unique, surprising, challenging and downright bizarre scenarios my way. I stepped into the unknown without my usual “plan” and was shaken up like the Mr. Krabs meme.
But I learned so much. I was forced to examine my beliefs, confront my fears, test my courage and push myself harder than ever before. I experienced bittersweet endings, new beginnings, setbacks and breakthroughs. Not making any resolutions led to a very random and unpredictable 12 months. It’s one of the smartest things I did in 2016.
There is definitely power in setting intentions and making plans, but too much planning makes us shortsighted. We get attached to a specific outcome and prepare ourselves for a specific route to our destination, then panic when we meet a detour. We develop a false sense of comfort and accomplishment in our plans and are thrown for a loop when we land somewhere we didn’t intend to be. It’s important to move with purpose and intention, but it’s limiting to use a plan as more of a salve or a rulebook than a guide.
2016 has been a rough year for many and it’s heartwarming to see everyone excited to make plans for the new year. But while I do wish you success in whatever you intend to pursue in 2017, I also hope you don’t let your plans become a prison.
Employ focus, but don’t let tunnel vision limit you. Do your best to stay on track, but don’t view deviations or delays as “failure”. Have a goal in mind, but be open to the possibility that what you’ve planned for yourself actually falls short of your true potential.
Be adaptable. Be flexible. Embrace the unknown. Plan a little less and see where it takes you!
(Although hopefully, not to London without a plane ticket home.) 🙂