Ask Colin: Making Plans

Hi Colin.

Like everyone, or maybe just everyone I know, I’m feeling really stuck right now.

I’ve been working a job, the first one I took right out of college, and was planning to move to another job that would pay better and that I think I would like better, but now that job isn’t available anymore, and might not be again.

Even more scary than the job stuff, though, is that I feel like I can’t prepare for anything. Everything just seems so uncertain, and I feel like if I prepare for anything at all, even non-work stuff like taking a trip or something like that, it may all be pointless because the trip will need to be cancelled or the airline industry will shut down again or something like that.

I don’t know if you’ll have any answers or insights into this kind of thing, but if you do, I could use some perspective right about now.



Hey Cindy-

Answers, unfortunately not. Insights, possibly.

Here are some ways of looking at things that have been helping me stay focused on investing both in the present and the future during these strange and in many ways quite frightening times:

Recognize that growth-oriented routines and rituals are beneficial unto themselves.

The eventual, longer-term outcomes of working out, of learning a new skill, of practice and routine and persistence are good and wonderful, of course. But there are benefits to be had along the way, too, from the flood of feel-good chemicals we receive after doing some push-ups, to the sense of accomplishment we can feel after solving a particular tricky math problem.

Investing in ourselves in this way, then, bears immediate fruit, alongside the long-term benefits we hope to enjoy, eventually. Thus, even when that someday seems blurrier than usual, these acts are not without meaning or purpose.

Consider that the future is always unknown, even when we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic.

There are vast realignments happening across all aspects of life right now, but these changes are just more dramatic and obvious versions of what’s always happening, all the time. We may be more away of these current shifts because of their newsworthy nature, but that doesn’t imply we’re operating in a predictable environment when there’s no pandemic to worry about.

All of our plans have always been made in a chaotic context.

So although the specifics of what we need to take into account are different right now, the relationship between our actions and their potential outcomes have not fundamentally changed. We shouldn’t, then, allow this amplification of life’s fickle nature to serve as an excuse to make no investments—in ourselves, in others, or in the world more broadly.

Remember, too, that change is inevitable and part of what determines our outcomes is how well we roll with the punches, adjust our plans midcourse, and, at times, fumble our way through a dark room without bruising ourselves too badly.

This means tweaking our plans and behaviors based on what’s happening around us, but also adjusting our thinking—our psychologies. Reworking our ambitions, expectations, and how we cope with grief.

It’s seldom pleasant to experience dramatic, un-asked-for change, and it’s not easy to make that change, with its unfamiliar scope, scale, and nature, work for you and what you hope to do with your life.

But it’s possible to recalibrate your thinking so that you’re ready and willing to make the best of whatever happens, to keep tabs on where things seem to be going next so that you can be prepared as is feasible, and to decide that you’ll do what you need to do to be okay: to be happy, to be healthy, and to help those around you do the same.

Everything is weird and oddly shaped and scary right now, and you’re not alone in feeling that way.

That said, it’s worth trying to see this moment through the lens of possibility whenever possible so that you’re able to make the best of things for the you of today, but also for the you of tomorrow, next month, and ten years from now.

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