How best-laid plans can rob you of your life's pursuit
"It's not a plan. It's a pursuit."
These are the first seven words that greet you on the JOY VENTURE website, and they are there for good reason.
If we're honest, plans can be hard to get excited about, especially after they have been written and you're further down the road of implementation. Don't get me wrong, plans are valuable. They point us in a direction and give us guardrails so we don't go off course. For some things, plans are essential.
But keep this in mind: life, in all of its assured messiness, doesn't typically go as planned.
When I walked away from a job after 16 years, I had an idea, but not a concrete plan. If there was a plan it was simply to do what I knew how to do well, and to work hard to make ends meet. You could sum up my unwritten plan like this: survive in hopes to sustain.
My plan -- or lack thereof -- seemed to be working. Food was on the table. Business was going well. That naturally led to the need to develop another plan (maybe this time more formal), something to strive for in hopes that I someday get to check that box, too.
But something else was happening. I was being stretched in new ways, often in ways I really wasn't comfortable with, both as a business owner and person. I quickly realized I needed to get comfortable with this idea of getting out of my comfort zone. In the context of JOY VENTURE, we call this the discovery phase.
I've also found that plans aren't too open to discovery. Plans are typically concrete. They are actionable. They drive results. And if we're not careful, they blind us of the opportunities in front of and around us that can change our world.
Plans also imply we have things figured out, that we know where we're going and how we're going to get there. Sure, they may not be foolproof or definitive but, in the context of business, we don't want those plans being flimsy or lack authority either. Which is why we're likely to follow a plan to its full demise in hopes that we'll be validated in the end. When that happens, we'll just draft another plan, right?
Pursuits, on the other hand, are things that gnaw at you, things that demand your action.
That's my five-year-old son, Solomon, in the photo above, where we are raising our hands in support of World Adoption Day (Nov. 15). But I have a confession to make: he was not part of my plan. I often refer to our journey of bringing Solly into our family as the best decision I never made.
I tell this part of my story in detail elsewhere, but the point to know is this: when that thing that gnawed at me -- concern and care for the orphan -- became a pursuit, I tried to hijack it and make it my plan. We would choose the country, the child, the health issues we could handle, and so on.
That's not how the story goes.
Seeing my plans stonewalled at every turn, I started listening and being receptive to following a path that looks completely unfamiliar. I soon realized that I was running after my pursuit with a curiosity rooted in discovery. And it changed my life for the better.
Here's the truth: my plan would've robbed me of the joy that Solly brings to my life every day. My pursuit of the idea of him -- before I knew it would actually be him and to be surprised by joy once I recognized he was the one meant for our family -- was what mattered. It's what fundamentally changed my thinking. As a result, I was able to experience Gotcha Day and celebrate it every year thereafter; I appreciate why we put smiley faces on our hands for the world to see; I've flown around the world and fell in love with countries I didn't care to visit and people I never thought I'd meet. I understand and now advocate for the plight of orphans around the world.
These are things that were not part of my plan. Ever.
And today I am far richer for my pursuits than I am for my plans. I've grabbed onto discovery as the key means in which to grow -- whether it be in business or in my personal life.
I'm a believer in being intentional and thoughtful, and I'm certainly not against having plans. If anything, I've become a student of learning when plans are valuable and when it's time to set them aside and allow those pursuits to run their course. I've found that my pursuits have led me to think about an entirely different set of plans and how I approach them.
What pursuits are gnawing at you? Are your plans too rigid? Are they preventing you from being open to real discovery and a life you've not yet dared to imagine?
The opportunity each of us has to fulfill our potential is rooted in discovering our joy, realized as we develop that joy, and best lived out when we share that joy with others. It's also led to the JOY VENTURE mantra:
Never. Stop. Discovering.
By embracing this thinking and pursuing those things that gnaw at you, those things that demand your action, you'll find that your joy -- and your inspired pursuit of it -- is contagious.