Planning is a good thing.
Even a poor plan is better than no plan at all. – Mikhail Chigorin
But too much planning can make things seem dull and over-rehearsed.
Sometimes (or is that most of the time?) our plans go awry.
No plan survives contact with the enemy. – Helmuth von Moltke
Once the plan has been disrupted then things take on a whole new unexpected perspective. Maybe things get uncomfortable, or even scary, but they’re certainly not dull.
How many times have you heard work colleagues grumble at the company Christmas party about how much they hate “organised fun”? Who ever had a love affair that they’d planned out in detail beforehand? Most writers would say that the best moment in writing a novel is when they have to throw away the carefully structured plot because the characters refuse to do what has been planned for them. Fun is, by its nature, spontaneous and unplanned. Fun is the stuff that happens when things go wrong.
My plan last weekend was to cycle a long way in this year’s 24 hour time-trial. Last year I managed 347 miles. This year, with a little more speed and a lot less sitting around and feeling pleased with myself, I reckoned 400 miles was achievable. I had a plan.
I rode the first 100 miles in a little over 5 hours. It was much too fast. I was in pain. The plan was in pieces. And that was the point when the ride got interesting.
If I had ridden at the pace I could handle and kept it up steadily all the way, I would have got close to that 400 mile target. It would have been a long slow steady recital of the plan. There would have been a sense of achievement at attaining the distance and no little satisfaction at having concocted a perfect plan, but not much excitement.
Sat on the side of the road trying to eat a sandwich in the gathering dark, trying to work out which body part hurt the most, knowing I couldn’t hit my target was not the high point of the day. I had to revisit my goals, work out what was important to me, and try to fathom what I could still achieve. How much rest did I need? Should I eat more, or would that make me sick? Should I drink more? Did I need sleep? The next few hours were spent trying out strategies, finding out how fast I could go without hurting too much more, getting it wrong and having to slow up again, finding a rhythm and getting going again.
I won’t say I didn’t think of giving up, because I did, several times, and rejected it. It might not sound like I was having fun, but in a twisted sort of way I was. I had created a far more interesting challenge than the one I had set out on. Battling back from the brink of exhaustion was every bit as satisfying an achievement as hitting my original target and, in the end, it really was fun. (And I rode 352.224 miles, so I still managed to beat last year!)
I’m not going to stop making plans. I’m not going to stop trying to make them happen. Without something going wrong, a mistake, or just bad luck, those plans will trundle on blandly to their intended end and I will be pleased. And when my plans go badly awry, I’ll have fun.
When did you last have fun when a plan worked out? Get things wrong once in a while and enjoy yourself!