Currently viewing the tag: "planning"

Part 1 of a multipart series

business planTwo years ago I wrote a piece called, Planning To Go With the Flow, in which I described a strategy for launching any endeavor, whether that be a new business, a creative project, or even starting a family. I explained the necessity of having a ‘purpose’ to one’s cause—what Aristotle called the final cause—and then constructing a blueprint to achieve that cause. Once the cause is determined, I explained, it is wholly appropriate to research, plan, influence, seek help and so on—what I call the planning or pushing stage.

There comes a point, however, when it is simply wise to let nature take its course. You have done all the planning; you have started the action necessary to get the ball rolling—the things you can control have been taken care of. Unfortunately many continue to push here, and if things do not go according to plan, then frustration set in…the stress. My suggestion here, then, is for one to allow things to just happen naturally—to go with the flow—because the unexpected, the stuff we cannot predict, very often leads to the greatest discoveries, the greatest implementations, the things we simply could not plan, those which make an endeavor unique, outstanding instead of just good.

dry riverThis piece stirred some thought in my readers, and an excellent question came as a result: What if the flow stops flowing? What if where there was once a stream stagnancy now sits? My initial answer was that many factors could be responsible for that type of scenario, as well there being multiple solutions, each depending on the cause of the drying up. Over the next few posts I will address some of the reasons why someone’s flow might stop flowing.

The first question I would ask a person in this situation is how they are determining flow. Aha! Back to the final cause… Yes! What is the purpose of the endeavor? Is it fulfilling a need; is it filling a void? Who’s void? What is the purpose to the one carrying out the endeavor—what Aristotle would call the efficient cause? Is it a money maker? Is it one’s dharma? Or is it purely what one loves to do? We must know both the final and efficient causes to answer the stop-flow question sufficiently.

I am certain that we all have a dharma—our truth; our life’s purpose if you will. I am equally certain that if every undertaking is aligned with one’s dharma, one can never go wrong. But the biggest challenge I see people face is that they are not in-tune with what that is. What is your dharma? Call it the final cause of your life—what do you envision your life to be about, its meaning? When you are in those last moments of life, and your history flashes before your eyes, what would you love that story to be? If you have not thought about it, well now is the time to do so.

You will never have a problem refocusing your flow if you tune-in to your dharma. I have said it before: Your purpose need not be grand or lofty. It may simply be to raise healthy, fulfilled and prepared children so that they may carry out their own dharma—can anybody argue the virtue of that? Perhaps you are a teacher, or a merchant, or in transportation—can’t you see the necessity of your life to the entire operation? Take not one life lightly—they all matter.

ripplesBut again when you tune-in to your dharma, it will be impossible for the flow to stop flowing; on the contrary, you will flow even beyond your lifetime, because the ripples of your life affect those you come into contact with daily, and can extend outward to an unknown number of generations. I have read how deeply impacted a twelve-year-old Jack Kerouac was by seeing a man drop dead in the middle of the street one evening, to the degree that it influenced his writing. Just think how one anonymous man’s death became part of a literature that shaped a generation. Nothing is insignificant.

Always have the end in mind, whether in an endeavor or your life. Take the time to think about your dharma, your life’s purpose, and connect all your undertakings to it. If you still find the flow not flowing, then you will know it is for a reason related to—or better yet detached from—your purpose. Next time I will discuss the magnitude of being true to your values.

I’ve recently been asked about whether it’s best to be driven and act on one’s desires, or to just “go with the flow.” In my contemplations of this outstanding thought-question I have come to some realizations, both from investigating my own life, as well as being a student of other peoples’ lives through my work as a dream designer, and as an avid reader of biographies.

I love learning about peoples’ lives, and above all about human behavior. I especially love seeing the unique challenges every individual faces as they make their way through their destiny, and particularly how they overcome their perceived obstacles. One observation I have had is that we all go through repeating cycles of comfort-discomfort in any and all endeavors. These cycles then lead us to enter adjacent and interconnected push-relax cycles, necessary to expand us into the next level of our growth.

When we take on any new endeavor, whether we are simply at the starting point of conceptualization, or in full swing of acting on it, we must by necessity have a definition and goal of what we are attempting to achieve. Take, for instance, a new business: before anything is launched, a blueprint or map must be created, ‘the how’ to ‘the what’ of the entity…in other words, the means to the end.

But even before this stage, a purpose must be established—‘the why’ of the entire undertaking. Without a reason for existing—a void to be filled, a need to be attended to, or a problem to be solved—no business will get off the ground, let alone survive. Aristotle called these two aspects the final cause—the purpose for which a thing exists or is done, and the blueprint, or master plan, to doing it. Without these important factors, it is unlikely that any endeavor will successfully manifest.

So in every one of our endeavors—whether that be creating a business or starting a family—a final cause or purpose, and a planning stage, is necessary. Although this period is usually filled with some knowns—like what we wish to create, and why; as well as some of the how’s—it is also filled with many unknowns, like how everything will play out. The details, in other words, remain a mystery.

During this stage, it is wholly appropriate to work hard, push, affect, influence, gather information, study, research, and so on. We would call this the ‘pushing’ phase, and it is clearly essential to get things moving. No action = no creation—it’s as simple as that. We have some control here, and it is wise to exert it. Very important is the need to plan, document, blue print and refine the plans, until even the most minute detail is accounted for. Anybody who has ever created anything can attest to the fact that planning, in detail, can save you from a heck of a lot of chaos in the future. Further, anybody who has ever failed to plan can attest to the disorder they soon find themselves in by skipping this important step. So my advice is to take control of this stage—the planning—and then push to get it off the ground.

Once your plan is in place, then letting go and letting it all unfold is the wisest thing to do. We can’t control every single detail, and why would we want to? Could you imagine how boring life would be if we could have command over how everything plays out in its entirety? No, this is a period of unknowing and discomfort, where details just unfold as they will. This is where we encounter the spice of life, the things that makes life interesting; the little curve balls that we don’t expect, and which lead us into areas of our greatest growth. I personally love it—most of my greatest adventures have come as a result of being open to these moments in the great unknown.

During this stage, you will probably find yourself in fight-or-flight, wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into. You’ll question your abilities and what you thought you knew, but hang in there, because it’s usually where miracles happen. It’s highly imperative to be flexible in this phase—in other words, to just go with the flow—because trying to control too much here can make the challenge even worse; and really, you’ll only be holding yourself back, blocking your own success, and maybe even having a hard time learning the associated lessons (don’t worry, you’ll learn eventually anyway) if you push too hard. Further, even if it does all work out for you, the stress you cause by trying to control the uncontrollable will age you unnecessarily.

So, yes, going with the flow is important…but so is pushing. The reality is that an equal balance of the two will provide you with the greatest growth. So be diligent and plan ahead; work on your final cause before undertaking any endeavor. You will take care of all the things you can control that way, and anticipate a few of problems you will encounter along the way. But when it comes time for stepping back and getting flexible—then sway with the wind. You will keep your sanity that way, while very likely discovering some cool things you just hadn’t expected; and you’ll grow in character, too. Not a bad way to approach life in general: Planning…and then going with the flow.

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