It seems like planning, checklists, and making goals have always been part of who I am. In fact, my mom used to occasionally say, “Stop wishing your life away.” I suppose she was concerned that I was so focused on getting from point “A” to point “B,” that I didn’t look around to see what was between the “points,” which is not the “point.”
Learning to develop a personal willingness to see goals as part of the journey (and not the point of the journey) has made my life more fun and interesting, while perhaps surprisingly also leading me on a path to reaching goals well beyond what I could have seen for myself when I first started the discipline of writing them down.
It’s easy to think that in order to reach our goals successfully, we need to stay on a very specific set course, with no deviations. But so much of the joy of the journey comes from embracing the “unplanned.”
It is okay to develop your peripheral vision for life. You never know what might catch your attention and lead you in a different direction that opens a door that you couldn’t have possibly imagined. A few turns off the straight path or a couple of miles on a dirt road is not a bad thing, a waste of time, nor a proof point of your imminent failure. These moments of exploration can be life-changing in very positive ways. Enjoy the serendipity of your journey. Better yet, learn to create some serendipity in your journey.
Like expecting the unexpected, planning for something that happens “by chance” doesn’t seem possible. Paradoxical? Perhaps, but there’s a way to open ourselves up to more serendipitous experiences. The cofounders of the company Get Satisfaction refer to it as “planned serendipity.” They note that routine is the “enemy of serendipity,” so the key is to consciously break your routine. When you purposely put yourself in unfamiliar situations or engage with new people with different ideas, you increase your odds of “planned serendipity.”
Consider how you might shake up your routine and invite serendipity onto your path. When you’ve identified goals you want to achieve, and you continually open up your mind to shifts in your day-to-day routine, you might be amazed at the new acquaintances and opportunities that present themselves as stepping stones toward a planned goal—or maybe even beyond a planned goal in ways that you couldn’t have otherwise foreseen!
However, it’s important to understand that simply changing your environment is just a “trick” to raise your level of awareness. Repetition and routine can make us “unconscious,” causing us to miss insights and possibilities. Putting yourself in new environments helps to break that tendency. The real key is to become more “conscious,” aware and appreciative every day, even in the mundane.
So, becoming all you can be—even if specific tasks and steps are needed—does not require the path to be as straight as possible. On the contrary, your journey might be more fun and productive if you are willing to leverage your peripheral vision, not actively avoid it. It’s the serendipitous and unplanned moments that can introduce you to positions, relationships, and experiences that you could have never planned that often make all the difference in life. Consider allowing yourself to strategically deviate on occasion, or at least acknowledge alternative paths with open eyes and an open heart, because you never know what incredible destinations might be on the unplanned “sidetrack.”