First Thing, Every Morning

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and I have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Marcus is saying to prepare yourself for the ugliness of situations and people you meet every day by reminding yourself that YOU just as often act and are perceived this way by others. So cut them some slack, Jason.

Having a Plan… or Not

One of the interesting things about growing older is the changing opinions I have. I’ve written in the past on goal setting, goal achieving and various other flavors of being oriented toward planning and organizing. And I think those are good things, don’t get me wrong.

Goals are fine and dandy. I feel like I’ve had overarching goals for my life ever since I was around 13 or 14 years of age. Those goals has changed as I’ve grown and achieved things, but looking back I can clearly see them now. When I was in my early to mid-teens, I felt a pull on my life to enter into full-time Christian ministry as a vocation. After that plan fell through for me in college and I dropped out, I had a new plan: get out of debt and find a way to become a “grown up”. I did that for a few years until I joined the Army in a fit of patriotism right after 9/11. Once I’d made that decision, I had a new goal: just make it through my time in the service with my sanity and health intact. After leaving the military, I got a civilian job and worked for quite a few years at trying to secure an expat assignment with a multinational corporation.

Some of these goals I’ve achieved and some of them I haven’t, or the focus has changed as I’ve pursued them and I eventually determined that they weren’t the proper goals for me to attain. And all of this is hindsight, of course: at the time, I didn’t always specifically understand what goal I was working toward (although sometimes I did). And I’ll fully admit that I’ve had my fair share and more of good fortune that has gotten me to where I am in spite of some of the decisions I’ve made.

The old adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail” can certainly hold true; I wouldn’t advocate not having any goals at all, anytime, ever. Goals provide security and focus, and they eliminate aimlessness, so they’re very beneficial for a lot of folks in a lot of circumstances.

But I’m coming to a point in my life where I’m finding it harder and harder to get worked up about setting goals and planning everything out. By definition (or at least the definition I hold to), goals require a person to strive toward a certain predetermined outcome. This outcome will come at the expense of other potential outcomes, since that person is making decisions that exclude other choices to further the one choice they’ve settled on. I’m not as much of a fan of this process as I used to be.

I’ve always been very confident in my direction (even if that direction wasn’t the best one) because it helps me to feel better about myself. As much as I’ve come to think of myself as a non-competitive person, I believe there’s still a bit of “achiever” in my personality. Things that provide status provide self-worth to me, and I don’t like that. That’s not the example I want to set for the world, and especially for my son.

Additionally, I’ve become less and less enamored with my own decision-making abilities, as well as my ability to foresee what the best choice for me and mine would be. I’ve made a bunch bad decisions that have required a Hail Mary dive and catch in the back of the end zone for them to work out okay in the end. I no longer assume that my decisions are going to be the best possible.

So I feel like it’s time to let go and become okay with uncertainty. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m becoming more convinced that it’s true for me. Maybe it’s a classic mid-life crisis (although I hope I’m not quite to mid-life yet!), but I’m feeling the need for new experiences. I want to step out in faith and allow serendipity to play a part in determining what happens next. I’ve got some ideas about how I plan (<— there’s the word!) to accomplish that, but I’m not sure I’m totally ready to reveal them to the world.

I understand that, as much as I’d like to, I can’t experience multiple tangents of time. I can’t make a choice to both do and not do something, so I will necessarily not get to experience any more by not planning than I would have by planning. But I think it might be educational to make some choices on what seems right instead of what seems best, if that makes any sense.

One thing I do know (and that I’ve talked a bit about on this blog in the recent past) is that I’m interested in paring down my footprint, because releasing some of the “stuff” should allow me to be more sensitive to seeing and stepping out in faith on a journey that may present itself. My possessions have started to become overwhelming, at least to me. I know it’s not as much of an issue for the rest of my family, so there will have to be a give and take involved. But I’m very fortunate in the fact that my wife is understanding and (mostly) on the same page as me, so we’ll find a way to go more lightly in the world together.