Should you plan your life?

I ripped a copy of my “definite major purpose” off the wall, crumpled it into a ball and threw it in the trash. I was tired of having a plan for my life. I wanted to live in the moment and to be present. An empty wooden desk and a blank piece of lined paper stared back at me. I started writing, “I am going to live in the moment and have complete faith that the universe will take me where I need to go.”

For a month or so, I lived with that statement as my definite major purpose. One day I was sitting at my desk and I realized that it wasn’t quite definite—and that it wasn’t really a purpose, either. My mind trailed off, and I looked up to another quote that was right next to it on my wall: “I am going to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

“Ok, I’m going to begin again,” I thought, with a blank piece of paper staring back at me. This time I saw the magic in that piece of paper. I realized that this white, lined piece of paper represented my future; it was what ever I wanted to create. This time I pledged that I would create a specific purpose, something that I could look back on and say, “I did it.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that there is value in living in the moment and being present. But I think that some people take it too far. Some people, myself included, have taken it to mean that you shouldn’t plan, that you shouldn’t prepare and that you should just be happy in the moment. Well, of course we all want to be happy in the moment. But I think we should also plan and prepare for our futures.

So I began to write: “My definite major purpose is to become a speaker who improves the lives of people and the planet. I am going to write, print and ship my first book by October 22, 2014.” That felt great, I thought.

Later I was reading a book, Discover Your Destiny, by Robin S. Sharma. He was saying that there is a delicate balance that you must strike between chasing after your dreams and going with the flow. He recommends that people create a specific plan for their lives. But he also says that if something doesn’t work out the way you’ve planned, you should be happy and present in the moment.

I think that Sharma has the right idea. If we create a plan, but at the same time have a belief that all is right in the universe, then we can be happy and content with where life takes us, even if it didn’t work out as we planned.

Many, many others also think that planning is overrated. Author Daniel H. Pink writes in Johnny Bunko, “There is no plan.” He writes this because he believes that you never know how your life is going to turn out. And it’s true that many events in our lives are “black swans,” or random occurrences that change our lives forever, like meeting the owner of a startup at Starbucks and getting hired for your dream job. It’s clear that there are some things we just can’t script.

But many aspects of our life still remain to be planned and prepared for. What kind of job do you want? What do you enjoy doing? What do you want your relationships to look like? If you don’t plan these areas of your life, someone else will.

Again I sat at my desk; a white, lined piece of paper looking back at me. I had learned that finding heartfelt reasons for why we might want to do something increases the chance that we will do it. So I started writing my reasons for why I wanted to achieve my purpose. I wrote, “I am going to write every day because I love to write. I have a knack for storytelling and I believe that I can craft stories and dialogue that will improve people’s lives.”

I sat back and looked at my purpose. Half of it was written in black ink and half in blue. That is the nature of a purpose, I thought. It’s ever changing, just like life.