To Plan or Not to Plan: The Answer is to Listen

I’m a little bit of a control freak. Okay, a lotta bit of a control freak. You know the type—doesn’t like surprises (even the good ones), the one who has a meltdown if absolutely anything goes out of plan, good or bad? Yeah… that’s me.

One of my best friends from home came to visit me, and I had planned on meeting her at the airport. Now, for those of you who have flown into LaGuardia (or any airport) recently, you know that they’re never easy, especially when you’re factoring in public transit. But don’t worry; I’m a planner. I even stayed with my friend the night before because there were multiple options to get out there rather than the one option from where I live. I knew exactly the latest I could leave to meet her at baggage claim. I knew what terminal, everything.

“We actually are getting in early, we should be landing in about 20 minutes.” I’m not even out the door and she’s almost here. Keep in mind, I’m around an hour out from the airport, so she’s definitely going to have to wait. My blood pressure starts to rise. I’m not even at the subway and something is already going wrong. It’s okay, I let her know I’m going to be late and everything is fine. (At least for her. I’m basically having a panic attack thinking of leaving her stranded in the airport.)

I get to the train for my first transfer and what do you know, the train I need is not running at this station. You’ve got to be kidding me! Knowing that she’s already touched down, I go upstairs to check and see how much a car service would be. “$30—ugh, no. I’ll find another way. No reason to do this.”

To save time here, I’ll summarize. All three ways by train I had planned to get there had issues. I got off the train, tried to get a car service, they couldn’t get me where I had gotten off, so I had to walk three blocks, grab a cab and finally met her there. Guess how much I spent on the cab? $30. Half the distance, twice the frustration, an hour late and I ended up spending the same amount of money that I tried to avoid. I felt so defeated and annoyed, even though I was so excited to see my friend, which should have been the main feeling of the day! I felt like I had failed her because she had to wait on me, alone, in a strange place.

I always try to learn something whenever I get frustrated; there isn’t any use in getting angry without learning something. I already knew that the subway system is shoddy so that was old news. Learning to plan better was null because I had three different routes all planned. So, what can I learn here?  

Life happens. Seems trivial and obvious, but it’s something that we forget on a regular basis. Regardless of your plans, there will always be obstacles. If you continue trying to fight the universe, you will lose. Sometimes you have to listen and let life take over.

Sticking with the travel motif: How many times have you plugged your destination into the GPS and there was construction that isn’t accounted for? Dozens, right? What does your GPS do? It starts rerouting, but unless you consciously change the path it will keep trying to get you to go back the way that doesn’t work. Do we look at the GPS like it’s a failure because of an unaccounted for traffic jam requiring you to change routes? No, of course not. It’s a machine. We might get frustrated that we have to change, but it’s more about the situation than the device.

Regardless of the frustration, you still have to change the route. It might take more time than originally planned, but it will take far less time than you fighting it. When things go awry it’s not your fault, you’re not a failure, you just got caught in the life trap that day. Shutting the GPS off will not get you there at all. Take a deep breath, change the route, and you’ll get there when you get there.

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A Native Texan now living in the magnificent New York City, Tricia Howard is an artist gone rogue who ended up in the wonderful world of technology. With a B.A. in Theatre Arts and interests ranging from Star Wars to Opera, she brings a unique and artistic perspective to her clients and the tech world. When she’s not solving business problems, you can find her singing, painting, and doing copious amounts of jigsaw puzzles.