I’m a person who likes to plan. I like to know things are in their right place, and ideally segregated by colour. And alphabetised. Some people might refer to me as a control freak, but I couldn’t possibly comment on such outlandish rumours.
In 2006, though, all my plans went a bit pear-shaped.
Without delving into emotional messiness, my marriage fell apart, I had a new baby, I had to move to a new town where I didn’t know anyone, and I had a five figure bank balance. If only there hadn’t been a minus sign in front of it. My ex and I put the house up for sale, dispensed with the nanny, and divided our belongings. I got the Dualit toaster, he got all our friends.
It wasn’t a great year.
But, as I tend to do, I made a plan. In fact, I made a five year plan and set out 10 things I would achieve by the end of 2011.
Some of the goals were personal, some professional, others financial. The ultimate goal was to provide Flea with a secure, happy home. I promised myself that for those five years I wouldn’t worry about my love life, my social life, my figure or my hair (boy, did I stick to that one). I would just keep my head down and work towards the goal.
Until a year ago, I was on track. Then something happened. I made a seriously bad judgement call, and we almost lost everything. It got pretty scary for a few weeks, there. Life likes to throw you curveballs, doesn’t it?
When you’re a parent, of course, you don’t have a choice in this kind of situation. You pick yourself up, you work hard, you fix things, and if something can’t be fixed, you make a Plan B. We came through the tough spot, with some valuable lessons learned in the process. Things are fine, now.
The real casualty was my five year plan. My set-back basically put me a year behind schedule. I caught up through 2011, but not all the way – so at the end of the year, I didn't get to tick off everything on my five year plan.
Of course I’m pleased we weathered the storm, and I count the many blessings I do have – everyone in my family is healthy and happy, we have a nice home, I have the best friend in the world, and I really love my job. In this day and age, I don't think many people can say that. And I'm grateful I learned hte things I did last year – it's made me so much better at what I do, and I won't make those mistakes again. Although, obviously, I look forward to making brand new mistakes in 2012.
Still, I can’t help feel like I’ve stuck a big FAILURE label on my own forehead because I set myself a completely arbitrary target I didn’t reach. So I wonder whether plans and targets and bucket lists are a negative approach to life. Did putting an arbitrary timescale on my projects motivate and inspire me? Or did it simply serve to make me feel bad when I didn’t meet it?
I wonder if a “bucket list” of things you want to do sometime is more effective, but then I wonder whether I’d just be unspeakably depressed by a daily reminder that, basically, I could die at any moment.
What do you think? Do you have a five-year-plan or a bucket list? How do you adapt when life gets in the way of those goals? Or perhaps you think a life plan robs you of spontaneity – I'd love to hear how you inspire and motivate yourself.