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5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

Think about how much time you spend planning. You plan your meals. Plan your day. Plan your vacations. Plan your wedding. Plan your family and plan your life.  How well is that working for you? How many times have you painstakingly planned something only to have the bottom drop out at the last minute? What can we do about all the unhealthy ruminating about planning?

Does it mean we shouldn’t plan anything? No, but we can learn to become more flexible. Here’s a few ways to start thinking a little differently about planning and ease your control freak tendencies.

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1. Notice your patterns

Chances are you didn’t become a control freak overnight. Your need to plan is directly connected to your need for security and adequacy. While planning may give you a feeling of being in control of life and the people around you, it’s an illusion. The first step in learning to relax and stop micro-managing everything is to notice your behavior and thought patterns. Pay attention to what you tell yourself about the need to plan everything. Write down your thought patterns. Notice the triggers that set your need to plan and control in motion. Ask yourself, “Why am I planning this out?” or “What would happen if I just went to the store and bought some ingredients, instead of planning out a menu?”

2. Learn to think differently

Being a stickler can be good in some areas of life, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that even the best-laid plans can go up in smoke. We can easily get drawn into   what therapists call cognitive distortions. These include “all or nothing thinking and catastrophizing.” For example, we may tell ourselves “If I don’t plan my day, nothing will get done.” Nothing means that not one thing will get done. Is that really true? No. We would have to lie in bed all day for nothing to get done. Catastrophizing means you blow things way out of proportion and assume the worse possible outcome. If nothing gets done, what do you tell yourself?  Things like: I’m inadequate, I have to be responsible, I am a loser, or I have to please others, are negative self-defeating thoughts. Try and replace them with positive counterstatements. “I’ll prioritize my list of things to do and if I don’t get to it all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still adequate,” is a good example. After all, tomorrow is another day!

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3. Accept Change

The one thing we are all guaranteed in life is change. Learning to adapt to life’s unpredictability will afford us a lot less anxiety and mental stress. Sometimes we plan our lives so rigidly that we set ourselves up for disappointment when things don’t go our way. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t control life and the people around us. How do we move toward accepting what we can’t plan for? Being convinced that all the stress and anxiety that goes along with it is not profitable for our well being. As long as we’re convinced we have to make perfect plans, we’ll continue to drive ourselves into the ground. Do your best and forget the rest!

4. Face your fears

No matter how much we know intellectually that we can’t plan for everything, we still try. We generally don’t give up until the usual coping strategies we have found for making life work go up in smoke. In the long run we would do better to face our fears and deal with them head on. Facing our fears means unpacking the underlying beliefs that drive them.  What do you believe about yourself, others and the world around you as it relates to having to plan? How does planning make you feel secure? Answer those questions for yourself and you might find that you can plan less and take on new challenges.

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5.  Learn to relax 

Trying to control everything in our lives is stressful, and when we’re stressed our bodies take a hit.  If we learn to pay attention to our physical bodies we will realize that we all live with a certain degree of tension. Relaxing isn’t just about watching television or playing computer games. Real relaxation begins by noticing, so doing a body scan can help. Start by closing your eyes and sitting in a comfortable position. Scan your body starting with your head and neck, moving to your arms, stomach, legs and feet, paying attention to where there is tension. Once you’re done, you can do some progressive muscle relaxation exercises to reduce your tense muscles or perhaps some yoga to take the stress out of your day.

Let’s face it we all want to be in control and planning is great as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Start today to practice healthier ways to stop making plans for everything.

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More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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