What Happens When You Stop Making Plans

Back in 2010 when I moved back to Pennsylvania, post divorce, I spent a lot of time with family.  My brother Bob, who was semi-retired at that time and I would occasionally go for walks, and he’d start reflecting back on his life.  He’d ask me things like what I wanted to be remembered for.

I kept thinking,  What the hell! I’m only 55, do I have to reflect already? I’m just getting started on my new life. I want to make plans, not reflect! I thought he was getting really morbid and it worried me. But he was sort of semi-retired after a very fulfilling career as a successful president of a company and he was in his reflecting phase.

Fast forward to today – guess who’s reflecting now? I think finally turning the age when a person can successfully apply for Social Security is what’s made me princess of the dark side.  Plus, working in a place filled with nubile 20-somethings sometimes inspires you, and sometimes makes you want to drag your withering corpse to the crypt already.

I’ve been torn recently, between making plans for the success I still feel like I haven’t achieved, and saying terrible things to myself about what the point is now anyway. After all, the painful truth is I’m closer to death than birth, unless I live to be 125.

But, you know me. I sometimes slip into a funk, but I always spring back because I know a powerful truth.  When you stop making plans and following dreams, you die.  I watched that happen to my ex mother-in-law and I know it’s true.

Life is just a series of goals you set for yourself. Some goals you reach, some take you down paths you never even imagined, and some never materialize. But pursuing them is what gives you a reason to get up every morning. And achieving them makes you feel amazing. And there are a ton of people who found amazing success when they were older. You can never give up the dream of being one of them.

So, maybe it’s crazy to want to finish this screenplay, or keep pursuing the other goals I’ve set, but the alternative is so much crazier. How could a totally healthy woman, with tons of energy, in one of the best countries in the world, with limitless possibilities at my fingertips, not set goals? That would be much crazier.

13 thoughts on “What Happens When You Stop Making Plans

  1. I’d say, “go for it”, and try to reach your goals and dreams. It’s never too late to reach your dreams. When I started my first ballet lesson, I was 45, the age when most professional ballerinas already retired… I’d think I totally missed the boat! But, I went ahead and looked for a studio that would teach adults. At that time, I never thought I’d be on stage or dance in the Nutcracker. My relatives who used to discourage me from such attempt (to start ballet so late) now comment that I’m living my dream. As my recent job change, yes, I’m an old granny of the crowd learning new things from younger people. But I’m not just clocking my hours, I want to develop the best software framework I can, aiming for software awards! That’s my dream and my goal! Yes, we’re “over the hill” but let’s go out in flaming glory, so that we can say we lived! I always aim at reaching the starts… even if I may not be able to get there!

  2. Fran,

    Since you evoked my name I feel obligated to respond:

    Never confuse these words: Dream/Goal/Plan. A dream is something that disappears when you wake up. A goal is something that you would like to achieve. A plan is a series of actions that when implemented results in achieving a goal.

    General Patton: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week”

    Bob Tunno: “It is great to dream, good to set goals and satisfying to plan, but all are meaningless without execution”

  3. Live each day like it is your last. Tell people you love them, and know you are loved too. God has a plan for each of us so enjoy and give your best each day 😊 JoAnn 😘😘

  4. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” — Martin Luther. We are planners, dreamers, builders of Scottish castles (out of cardboard). I once told my mother, in exasperation, “I hope I am learning something knew on the last day I take a breath.” That said, whilst planning and dreaming, it is equally important to take stock and recognize all the accomplishments in the life we’ve already lived… and, find joy in the moment. As my recent experience has taught me: in reality, we only possess this moment. Be sure to savor it, dear friend. ❤

  5. Great post, Fran. I think we all teeter on that high wire more than you know. I think it is human. But you are right about it never being too late. And it is also ok to prioritize at a certain point. You don’t have to chase 12 different goals and exhaust yourself running after your tail. You can still have vim and vigor for life, and also be sure you are taking the breaths you need to look around, smell the roses and savor what I know you have already achieved! – then you can get up again the next day and dive into it all over again 🙂

  6. Very thought provoking, Fran. The first part about reflecting on your life begs the question “Why is it when you’ve finally reached the age of reflection, you’re too damn old to remember what you are reflecting about?” The last part where you point out we are closer to death than to birth reminds me of something that great philosopher Joe Namath (?) once said. Life is like a football game. Since the average life expectancy is around 80, every 20 years is a quarter. Once you pass 60, you’re in the 4th quarter. Personally, I’m hoping for overtime – preferably sudden death.

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