The February issue of the British Elle was hiding amongst wedding mags at my local Barnes & Noble earlier this week. My favorite UK mag, Tatler is often misplaced on those shelves; I’ve learned to search from Style well into Cars and even behind the Men’s Interest magazines. As Tatler, a Condé Nast Publication, was sadly missing, I picked up last months Elle instead.
Flipping through the pages, a quote jumped out at me. Immediately, the magazine was tossed into my purchase pile.
“…to stick to a plan you many in your past is to be held hostage by a person who isn’t you any more.”
The author of this excellent article is Sahar Hashemi, who co-founded Coffee Republic. She effectively argues against the popular Life Plans. Oh to have read a piece like this a decade ago!
Hashemi writes of her Life Plan pre-Coffee Republic with what appears to be a bit of a smile and headshake at her former self. Focused and headstrong, she pushed herself along a strict route to become a solicitor, achieved it, and promptly disliked it.
I, too, created a plan. It varied from time to time, but the end goal was to be a successful businesswoman. I was enamored with the idea of power, suits, briefcases, and corner offices. Often, my parents and mentors, encouraged slowing down and opening up to other options. Like Hashemi, I ignored other options and kept my blinders on. It wasn’t an closed plan, I argued. I often altered the course a little here and there. However, these alterations weren’t tangent paths but rather shortcuts to the end goal. After studying abroad a year earlier than planned, I realized I only had 10 course left to take before graduation. Against all recommendations, I fought to take those last 40 credits in one final year. Graduation was a celebration. 3 years of hard work kicking me out into the Real World.
I imagined the Real World with glassy eyed wonder. How classy and fun! To be independent, making an income and spending it at fantastic happy hours with colleagues in the city.
Truth: The life was far from the one I imagined. I loved living in Milwaukee with my best friend. My work was actually in my chosen field. I had it all. Except, I wasn’t happy. Life in the city was perfect, but work lacked the excitement I’d imagined. But I couldn’t give up. Leaving my career path felt like failure. There was no way I’d admit that everything I’d strived for turned out to be not exactly what I wanted.
…we can get attached to our plans and try to force them to happen – even if they are not the best path for us. It becomes the perfect excuse to beat ourselves up – because we love to do that; a perfect excuse for inner conflict and dissatisfaction that we are somehow not living up to the mark.”
Hashemi doesn’t suggest we flounder through life without any planning. Rather, she believed that holding yourself to a plan is to cling to something that may no longer exist. We should make plans. However, we should write these plans as more of a guide than a paradigm. We must be open to alterations, obstacles, and even complete turnarounds. As humans, we are ever-changing. Why should the plans we create for our lives be staid?
Hashemi, Sahar. “Do You Really Need a Life Plan?” Elle UK February 2011: 37-38.