I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. Give me a pen, and I’ll write a to-do list. I think it’s a security thing. I may not actually know the future, but I can plan, predict and pencil my life into the outline I hope it will eventually fill.
I like my planner to be full and messy. Not messy in the sense of chaos, but messy in the sense that things are being scribbled out one by one.
For this very reason, I am put in charge of projects at work. I have a (tentative) five-year plan. I am the most likely person in my high school class (2000) to plan our 10-year class reunion, and of course, I’ve already thought of this. Gosh, I even know what haircut I’d like to have in January.
And while I have always thought this focused, goal-oriented mindset was a positive thing—after all, I move forward because of it—I am discovering that it is an aspect of my personality that I do not always have to strive for.
Personality can be fluid, and I am allowed to enjoy the other side of the coin. That idea never occurred to me until recently. But, sometimes you miss out on things when you’re focused. It can cause you to pass by things that may be significantly more important than your goal.
This summer, some mornings I’d wake up in my room in Africa and just get dressed. Then, I’d get tea. Then, my day would just begin happening. I didn’t pencil in any appointments or try to figure it out. It just happened.
I’d have a long conversation over tea or I’d venture out to my friend the nursery teacher’s class at some point in the morning, or I’d walk to the market to get supplies.
Life happened. If it rained, we stopped. If it got dark, we went home.
If I didn’t get anything done it didn’t matter, because I hadn’t expected to scribble anything out anyway. What had happened that day was just fine. Things got done, but certainly not in my time or inside my penciled-in lines, so I quit penciling.
And I enjoyed it. There’s just something in showing up and not knowing why. Something about starting and not knowing when you’ll finish. It holds its own sort of energy.
Since I’ve been back, I have enjoyed days of planning on nothing in particular, and my life has continued happening just fine without any scheduling. Of course, I eventually bought a new planner and stepped back into the world of deadlines and appointments.
But, I have seen that I enjoy both ways of living and discovered that maybe these personality traits aren’t as diametrically opposed as I thought. Maybe having direction and drive are positive only when tempered with an easy-going acceptance of reality and vice versa.
Maybe it’s not as much about personality traits or preferences as it is about behavior that is the result of a certain belief. It seems like that kind of living is a pretty biblical way of looking at life.
After all, we have no control over time, so acting like we do to the point of believing it is arrogant and futile. Not accomplishing a specific task in the desired time usually irritates me, but should it? Life has never happened on my schedule, so why would it start?
Not even the weatherman is right 100 percent of the time, and it’s his job. Only God really has a handle on the concept of time and that belief should guide my behavior.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t plan, but just that I should be open to that plan taking new shape when life happens. We are meant to have a purpose, a goal, a destination (read Philippians 3), but that doesn’t mean that life won’t take its turns along the way. And while I certainly know where I am going, I don’t want to miss out on all of the side trips and lookout points along the way. Maybe some of life’s best lessons and moments are in those unplanned scenic byways that are a little ways off the interstate.