How We Sabotage the Unknown
I remember as a child being asked the daunting question of:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In fact, this inquiry was a reoccurring topic that plagued most of my classroom exercises from elementary age well into young adulthood. Yet, as the years passed and the inevitably of life continued, the question transitioned from “What do you want to be” to “What do you want to do with your life.” A type of accusation that echoed — we need an answer and we need it now — cuing feelings of anxiety and panic.
I started to think that this emphasis on planning, on preparation for a future that has yet to be lived is a common thread of humanity. It is in our nature to think about the next thing, to look toward the unforeseen as an indication of how to behave in our present circumstances.
I recently stumbled upon a quote that resonated with this idea of how we perceive time:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
― Lao Tzu
In truth, I would say that many of us live in this state of anxiety. It is easy to say that we are at peace, to convince ourselves that we are living fully in the day to day. Yet, in reality — the projection of our future is constantly hanging in the balance.
And with such a focus on what’s next, where is my life going, who will I be in 5, 10, 20 years — we are subconsciously sabotaging the unknown movements of our lives.
Putting Trust in the Unexpected
Now, I’m not someone who is steadfast in the belief that there is a universal being guiding us in specific directions. I’m somewhat a believer of fate, destiny and have had experiences that illustrate that things can happen for a reason. But, this idea of the unknown isn’t directly tied to universal guidance. When I speak of the unforeseen , I am talking about having a trust in the unexpected.
Too often we become dragged down by ideas that we have conceptualized, ones we have to stick with because it is part of a bigger plan. Yet, this riding the straight and narrow line leaves no room for error. It leaves no room for the possibility that things go off the course — a place where something better than you imagined may lie.
The Future is Unpredictable
Unpredictability can be a downer for people who like to plan. Whether you always knew your intended career path, the house you wanted to own or the type of partner you wanted to marry, a change of plans can throw us out of whack. But does a change in course, a shift in direction always yield negative results?
We can strategize and formulate our lives to the very last detail, but something will always go off course. You may decide your career isn’t fulfilling, that the money for the house is better spent traveling or your ideal partner is the exact opposite of what you had expected — this is unpredictability at its finest.
Humans Change and Grow (And So Should Our Plans)
The beauty of the human experience is that change is inevitable. The dreams and goals you may have had as a child have shifted, transformed as you progressed into adulthood. Your ideas of career, money, relationships and success change in relation to your experiences.
The best part about plans is that they are just an outline. They work as stepping stones to lead you in a direction, to make sure you keep yourself motivated in the pursuit of what will bring you contentment. But, as we are growing, so should our plans. We may have never expected to lose our job, have a love that didn’t last or be evicted from our apartment. Just like we never expected to move abroad, inherit a unknown family fortune or meet your heart’s desire while ordering a sesame bagel (heavy on the cream cheese). Yet, aren’t some of the best things that happen to us a result of unexpected, unplanned change?
The Road to Our Future
In our search for the answers to our future and laying down the bricks to our projected life, we have to remember to be open to the spontaneity of living. We cannot forget that no matter how straight the road is or how smooth the ride may feel, there will always be a detour. And like most back roads, the unintended deviations from our intended map — are often the ones that offer the greatest of views.