June 2013

Planning Life, Living Life


My husband John and I are in the midst of making some important decisions — well, important to us anyway. I keep trying to think through the long-term impact, projecting events forward several years. Even as I do it, I know there will be surprises ahead. As John Lennon famously wrote in one of his songs: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

True as that is we still continue our own planning. We find value through the gathering of information, weighing of options, and sharing a sense of empowerment from the very process of planning. And it challenges us to remain flexible, adapting to inevitable changes.

As planners we are in good company. Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking from the perspective of both war and national governance, advised: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Confucius is quoted as saying: “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” So the point seems to be that making a plan, though it will have limitations, is better than having no plan at all.

The Baha’i Faith emphasizes consulting with others as a strategic step within decision-making. Otherwise there is just one or maybe two persons making assumptions, evaluating resources, creating lists, and possibly overlooking or misinterpreting information. Through consultation we can more realistically assess what resources are needed, who else is involved, and what risks we might be facing.

Even with a strong plan, personal commitment and patience are essential to making it work. And the longer it is all going to take the more vital these are. Short-term enthusiasm for a long-term project will not provide enough fuel to bring about results. Most of us have our own stories about well-intentioned plans that fizzled at some point.

Shoghi Effendi, who was keenly skilled as a planner, often advised and encouraged the Baha’is of his time in their efforts to develop as a world-wide community. His many letters and books use words such as “careful planning,” “energetic action,” “great deal of patience”, “planning and perseverance,” “resolute effort and meticulously carried out.” Above all, and not surprisingly, he emphasized the hallmarks of successful planning as being: “Nothing short of (the) unity, self sacrifice and intelligent and systematized planning. . .”

In our own everyday lives, we can’t always follow the advice of carpenters and tailors who tell us to “measure twice, cut once.” Sometimes we just have to act. If we have been planning then at least we know where we stand, even if the plan had another timeframe or vision.

As John and I continue our conversation, we will find that the process of planning has its own outcome, quite separate from the plan itself. We will grow stronger and develop character traits such as patience, perseverance, detachment, and resilience. These will see us through other, possibly more difficult, times as well. We don’t even have to include personal and spiritual growth in the plan itself, as surely it will happen on its own.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2013