What is the Life-Plan
We all have this great plan of how our future should look. A plan that brings together all of our ambitions and desires. Our ideal job, ideal paycheck, the house we’d be living in, the person we would share it with, the number of kids we’d have, and so on… This is the life-plan, and like our own personal cheat-sheet, it holds everything we believe we need to know in order to easily maneuver through our life.
This life-plan is a set of expectations which were meant to help us make decisions and assess our situation quickly and easily. Thanks to this plan, even difficult decisions, like what kind of partner we want or which career opportunities to pursue, take only a split second to make.
The life plan makes our decisions much easier, but don’t get too excited. If managed incorrectly, this great tool may completely annihilate your self-esteem.
This article will break down a mental construct which we all take for granted, our expectations. Helping you better understand the real price you pay for every plan you make.
The Default Life-Plan
The life plan is big and complicated and creating it is a difficult process which requires a lot of knowledge, time, and effort. Since we need to use the life plan long before we’re mentally capable of creating one, the previous generation hand one down to us.
Forged by generations, our parents, educators, and society, all collaborate to hand over our cultural default life-plan. The base conditionings, expectations, and plans for our future. I’m sure you know that one, we all get them. You know, the “go to school, get a job, get married, and have kids plan”.
That’s how we all begin, and for a while, this is all we have. But, as we go on with life, slowly this plan begins to accumulate more and more customized additions. I, for example, want my partner to be tall, my home to be in the city, and my work to involve freedom and creativity. And I even added some more significant changes, such as practicing martial arts, working out on a regular basis, and snowboarding about once a year. For all of these course-altering decisions, I first had to consult my li, e-plan.
To make such adjustments to our life, we must first make sure that they are compatible with our life-plan. Take into account the effect that this activity would have over our other goals, the time and effort it requires, our parents and peers opinions, and more. You know… see how it would fit into the bigger picture.
Only if everything fits together nicely we could actually go through with it, otherwise, we would probably have to give up on what we want in favor of greater goals. In a sense, the life-plan is like having another parent and everything we wish to do must be approved by it.
On the bright side, having a plan makes our decisions much easier. We already know what we should choose, should want, and should do. It is an amazing cognition saver and it makes life so much simpler. No need to carefully weigh each and every little decision, just consult our expectations of ourselves and the answer is already there.
What would you like to eat? “I’m vegetarian, I’ll have the salad and potatoes.”
What would you like to do? “I’m an introvert, so let’s stay at home.”
What do you do in life? “I work, study, participate in some kind of a hobby.”
How are you doing? “Good, that’s what I usually say.”
The life-plan serves as a mental cheat sheet with answers to all the questions that we might encounter in life.
Who doesn’t love having a cheat sheet with them?! Having all the answers at hand and all our decisions already made gives us the sense of stability which we so deeply long for. It is so easy and comfortable, that often we would like to just have everything on it.
So we make additions to the plan. We create rules for everything, build daily routines, and schedule every little thing we do. Leaving no room for mistakes, no room for changes, and no need for thought.
In the beginning, it works like a charm. We get up in the morning and do what we usually do – go to where we usually go, stay there for as long as we usually do, and so on… The routine has everything we need in it, and we trust that it will take us to where we want to go.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses, because the life-plan does not only function as our beloved cheat sheet, but it is also our judge, and all of these extra additions we made now bind us.
When the plan isn’t followed through, routine is broken, and expectations aren’t met, some deeply unpleasant emotions are triggered. As disappointment, embarrassment, and shame make us feel bad for every little deviation from our beloved plan.
Then, little things like “I was supposed to get an A+ and I only got an A” or “I was supposed to get a pay raise every 6 months, and it’s already been 10 months” become unreasonably painful. No matter how small or ridiculous they might be, all deviations from plan bring about the same set of emotions. And the bigger and more detailed the plan is, the harder it judges.
The creation of an overgrown life-plan, full of unnecessary details, is the cause of needless pain. Therefore, when it comes to a life-plan, the key to success and happiness is actually minimalism.
Trapped in Routine
Doing the exact same thing every day, week, year, and still feeling like you’re not good enough? This is not because you’re inadequate, but simply the result of excessive self-expectations and an overgrown life-plan. But after years and years of living the same routine, breaking away can be quite a challenge.
Who would you be without the plan?
What kind of clothes would you wear if you didn’t have a specific style?
Which food would you order if you didn’t have a specific diet?
How would you live if you were free to once again act like a child, and do whatever you wanted?
After years and years of living the same routine and using your cheat-sheet for every little decision, is it even possible to go back to making decisions on your own?
Suddenly you’d have to actually think about each and every decision you make, carefully weigh all the variables, and reach an independent conclusion. It would be like this feeling you get when someone just asked you a question that you’ve never thought about before. All this information rushes to your brain, waiting to be seen, evaluated and considered. Using all the information you gathered over the course of a lifetime just to decide what you want to eat. Sounds exhaustingly difficult, doesn’t it?!
Navigating the world of endless possibilities is challenging enough when you have a cheat-sheet, it would be impossible without it. There’s no way that the rational mind can process all of this information and reach a solid rational decision regarding every little detail of our lives. But the emotional mind can.
It’s not only that the emotional mind can make decisions for you, it actually does that all the time. Every time you think of food, in a split second it decides if it wants to eat it or not. Every time you see a person, in a split second it decides if you want to talk to them or not. It makes so many decisions for you, but if you don’t know how to listen, or if you’re lacking self-trust, you would end up trying to think things through rationally, just to eventually reach the exacts same conclusion, but much slower.
If you wish to live your life without excessive routines, patterns, and other forms of expectations, and without the pain and disappointment that they cause, you must learn to utilize your entire brain. To break out of the life-plan’s comfort zone you must first learn to trust yourself.
The plan is easy, it’s in the known, it is safe, but it’s short of your full potential. You may not believe in yourself enough, and you may think that this self of yours is not yet good enough to be trusted. Perhaps you’re right and perhaps you’re wrong, either way, the comfort zone will never satisfy you, and without trusting yourself it will never get any better.
The world is changing at an ever-growing pace, and to be happy and fulfilled we must change with it. So do it! Don’t fall behind, break out of your comfort zone, and listen to your instincts. Not because it is the right choice, but because it is the only choice.
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