“Just go with the flow” they said! Sure, this may be so easy for some, but not ME!
Do you keep a highly detailed schedule weeks to months in advance? Hold onto your planner like it’s your child? Do you like to know the situation you are getting yourself into? Maybe you are highly organized with both your physical possessions and with everything floating through your head? If you relate to any of these, then yes, I am writing to you! Whether this obsession stems purely from self-preference and comfort, or some deeper psychological control factor, I will share how I have adopted some freedom from planning and my outlook on things we can and cannot control.
With COVID-19 restrictions keeping us all locked up in our homes, all of us are being forced to restructure our “plan” in order to adapt to new styles of living, working, and interacting. Maybe you had a beautiful vacation planned that you ended up having to cancel, ended up caring for your kids at home all day long while working full time, or had to pick up an entirely new way of learning as your classes were transferred online. If any of us had been asked two months ago where you would be today, very few, if any, would have pictured this rare situation infringing on our lives. Life gives us frequent surprises whether large or small, and while I personally have become very adaptable, I wish it had not taken me so long and that I had more willingly embraced the spontaneity! Don’t get me wrong, I have always been relatively versatile with new situations and challenges thrown my way. But finally, in my twenty-fifth year of life, I am learning to relax a bit when things don’t happen as I had planned or hoped for.
For all you ‘Type A’ people out there, I recommend trying to adopt the “go with the flow” lifestyle while still creating a meaningful life and contributing to your goals and aspirations. This effective ability to flow is well described in this Psychology Today article. I found that the author hit the nail on the head with what I have been trying to piece together for the past couple years. I have spent additional years in school working on finishing up my Bachelor’s degree after two major career path changes, one of which I had no control over, and have survived an almost three-year long-distance relationship with a ‘Type B’! If I have learned anything from these experiences, it’s that I find myself much happier when I do not try to anticipate every little thing that might happen. When I anticipate or try to play situations out in my head and they do not work out that way, I find myself crushed and disappointed. Rather than allowing this devastation to happen, I have found myself more able to “flow” through these situations by focusing more on the present than on how I THOUGHT things would play out. Testing this ability to flow in my own life has shown me that I can still enjoy my time just as much, if not more, and that the added unknown and surprise can make the situations more wholesome rather than scripted.
Traveling can often present lots of surprises…but one of my trips with Gabriel in particular stands out: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We were trying to fly standby into Punta Cana and because the flights filled up and we did not want to see our hotel money go to waste, we made a last minute decision to fly into Santo Domingo, the capital of this island country that was completely across the island from our resort. Upon arriving, we sought out our transportation options and went with the expensive two hour taxi ride over the four hour bus ride ultimately prioritizing our limited amount of time on vacation. After paying the steep taxi fee, we arrived at our resort to find out that rather than selecting the all-inclusive suite rate on the booking website, we had accidentally chosen the standard nightly room rate for one of the suites…at this point, I was incredibly flustered by the amount of time we had to spend for additional transportation and by the quickly compounding bill of this trip as we then had to pay for drinks, meals, and tips out of pocket. So, we spent way more money and time on things we had not expected. Our suite room was beautiful with a huge patio and jacuzzi, so that helped to ease the situation a bit, but I stepped outside onto the patio and was greeted by a foul sea smell. I love the smell of beaches and being around the ocean, but this was extreme. We made it down to the beach later to find that the hurricane that passed through just two weeks prior was still causing mounds of seaweed to pile up on what would have been a pristine beach. Employees worked all day long every day we were there to keep up with the incoming seaweed. As you can imagine, the water was full of the stuff to the point that it looked black and highly uninviting, so no swimming! There were so many unexpected delays and inconveniences on that trip. Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention the sun burn!
Looking back now, we like to laugh at our experience, but I was definitely upset for some of the trip. Luckily Gabriel is a very cool-headed individual so his calmness helped me to take the situation for what it was. We also talked through the expenses and determined that neither of us was going to be put in a dire financial situation from spending a bit more on food and the taxi. Lastly, one of my coping mechanisms is to laugh, so we often found ourselves joking about the situation while still on the trip when considering everything that went “wrong”. But “wrong” is a keyword here. Sure, it did not go as we planned AT ALL, but nothing was truly wrong. We were still on vacation, we were alive and well, and we still managed to make the most out of it and have a good time. Whether you laugh and try to look at the big picture, or need some other suggestions, this Life Coach Directory article proposes some alternative methods to coping when things do not go accordingly.
What I have found so far is that a good balance between plan and flow is optimal. This allows one to be mentally and emotionally flexible in rapidly changing situations or large life challenges, but also provides the structure to set and achieve goals and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. First and foremost, always do what is best for you. Structure is not a bad thing, but life is often too serious, so don’t forget to have some fun in the middle!
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” – Elizabeth Edwards