I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years because I plan too much. I’ve been told that I need to ‘go with the flow’ and ‘just learn to relax’. But what most don’t realize is that planning things out is what allows me to relax. It seems contradictory but its very true. If I know what to expect in a given situation, I can be the most flexible and relaxed person in the room.
Planning creates order out of the swirling chaos in my mind. At any one time, my thoughts jump from one topic to the next intermittently. By writing things out, or creating mental lists, it creates order and gives me something to focus on. I can organize and process my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can come up with ideas, goals, and plans and then take steps to achieve them. Planning things, rather than just letting things happen, reduces the stress of not knowing what’s going on. As someone who doesn’t enjoy surprises, this is hugely beneficial.
Even when it comes to spending time with friends, I like to plan everything out from start to finish, laying out all the details. For example, when I spend summer weekends downtown with my friends, we choose a time to meet up. Once I know that, I’ll figure out how much time I need to get ready, to drive to the train station, to take the train downtown, and to walk to the meetup location. Having a time-frame to work within calms me down and keeps me on schedule. Plus, I never have to worry about being late (which is one of my biggest pet peeves).
We’ll usually start out with a game plan, like walking along the river, and we’ll see where the day takes us. In my head, I’ve already compiled a huge list of potential activities we could do. We could go to the movies, check out the shopping mall, peruse the open market, grab food at a restaurant, stop at a coffee or bubble tea shop, check out alternate walking paths, take the train to other locations, do impromptu photo shoots in the park, or just relax on the grass. Even though we’ll never go through that entire list, knowing what our options are allows me to relax as my mind is no longer focused on figuring things out.
Obviously life is unpredictable, I can’t plan everything, and flexibility is another thing I’m still working on. But planning helps me to de-stress, and I’m not going to alienate that part of myself, or feel guilty for it any more.
Have you had similar experiences?