Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Sometimes we need to be open to life to allow it to happen. Happiness is there and accessible if we can stop planning, making lists, and trying to control every detail. -Whitney Million
Boy, do I have a hard time being open to life. I started taking two days a week off in January, but I have those two days planned out down to the hour, allowing no wiggle room for possibility.
Are you like me, waiting on someone to give me permission to rest? To take a break? Early in the pandemic, it felt like we were all given a chance to see life unfold before us instead of planning out each step. My furlough felt like a permission slip. Except I slowly piled more stuff on. I ramped up my writing expectations and goals; I joined new committees and groups. I scheduled phone calls and appointments, slowly filling up the precious time I'd been given.
How do we let ourselves be open to life, to let it happen? I'm a planner by nature. My #1 strength is futuristic (i.e., planning and daydreaming). I imagine if I'd been stuck in South Africa like Whitney, I would've spent at least half of my day daydreaming about the next step.
Is it possible to live in the moment, to stop trying to figure life out and let it be more like an ocean, the waves lifting and lowering us with each new circumstance? After all, the idea that we can control something is just a trick of the ego. Look at my podcast; the name Recharting Your Life with Hope is a dead giveaway I think I can plan out each step of the future.
As I pondered all this, I realized there are steps we can take to stop micromanaging but still chart a course.
Here's what I mean:
First, have a vision for what you'd like to see happen. Writing it out is a powerful way of bringing it to reality. I wrote in my journal a few years ago that I wanted to live overseas for a year.
Know that this vision isn't guaranteed. Events may not happen as you envision, but having this vision will open you up to the possibility of a future different from your current circumstances. We didn't end up moving overseas for a year, but we did explore the possibility of an extended visit. It turns out two weeks was the perfect amount of time to learn about Guatemala and let our kids experience international travel and "otherness."
Look for possibility. Notice conversations, comments, people who pass your way. In my recent interview with Whitney Million, she said the cute guy with the south African accent needed a ride to the airport. She probably wasn't thinking he'd end up being her future husband, but she was open to possibility. I interviewed a lady last night who told me that she threw out a comment about being tired of working as a solo artist and that she'd like to do something else. Her friend happened to know someone looking for help picking out the art for a huge apartment building. My friend got the job. She had no idea she'd end up being an art advisor and curator, but she was open to trying something new.
Notice your resistance to changes in your plans. If you feel resistance, this means you need to practice letting go. It's your Ego who wants things the way she envisioned them. Your Inner Self is flowier. She knows resistance is futile and leads to unhappiness because of unfulfilled expectations. You can even name the two parts of you: Resistant Rachel and Flowy Fiona. When you feel resistance bubbling up, tell Resistant Rachel to take a chill pill. I was in the orthodontist's office yesterday, and the appointment was going way longer than I thought. I felt Resistant Rachel nudge me to ask how much longer it'd be. She was telling me all about how my plans to do yoga at noon were ruined. Flowy Fiona interrupted, "But I'm reading an amazing book, and how cool is it that I have time to sit and read?"
Remain grateful. Notice when things go your way, even if it's something like a friend picking up the tab for your lunch. Or a meeting gets canceled, resulting in more free time. For me, it might be a patient canceling their appointment when they're the last one of the day.
Notice your thoughts. If you're like me and you go down a rabbit hole of planning out the next ten years, notice. Your brain starts going, "and then, and then, and then." Notice. Then, try replacing the planning thoughts with a mantra like, "I am open to possibility." Say this whenever you feel yourself going into planning mode.
Ask yourself how you're feeling. Let this guide you instead of letting your brain "figure it out" with thinking. It turns out I didn't feel like doing yoga. I could've driven like a maniac to get home in time to take the class, but instead, my body felt hungry and cold from being in an office. I went home, got my lunch, and sat on the trampoline in the sun.