Man With a Plan

April 14, 2010

Planning is an almost exclusively human compulsion. The drive to create linear order is an urge to control time and space– the past, present, and future, all at once.

We like to plan things, even those of us who believe we loathe it. We are a species capable of projecting our future selves. We can, in fact, even envision multiple future realities: best case and worst case scenarios being two very basic examples. In doing so, however, fear of failure, setbacks, and disappointment also become very real– right in the conceptual stage. Ego. Superego. Concern.

Once humans have envisioned our future selves, a cornerstone of “normal” psychological functioning, we immediately begin to worry about that distant being. Some sort of strategy for controlling the environment and circumstances of that individual is desired; after all, that person is you!

Maslow created an empirical hierarchy of needs. He postulated that humans spend their lives striving to meet these needs on a constant basis. Based on this widely accepted theory, members of our species must be capable of forecasting fate if we wish to advance and feel personally fulfilled. Just the act of being an intelligent life form is, then, its own struggle– not even to mention outside forces interfering with these pursuits.

So we plan.

We play the chess game. We make appointments and reservations. We save money and paid time off. We estimate costs. We use calendars and clocks. Time is of the essence until the future is the past. And we learn so we can plan better next time.

Some people are good at this; capable of ensuring that not only their needs are met, but the needs of those around them. These people are successful in controlling past perceptions, current events, and future opinions. There are whole fields of study and an occupational niche for these planners. Why?

Because, then there are people like myself, who spend so much of their lives connecting the past and the present, that the future becomes an afterthought (if that makes any sense?!). Sometimes, things go well and the universe just unfolds itself fortuitously for us. Other times, we are met with the disappointment and failure we may have been able to prevent, had we just thought ahead.

So? I suppose it pays to have a backup. A universal old go-to for the times when all else fails.

Me? My contingency plan is glitter.

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang oft agley.”


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4 Responses to “Man With a Plan”

  1. BathtubGym Says:

    Everything plans. Birds build nests, beavers build dams, bears eat a lot before winter. Anilmals have lots of litters because some of them are going to be food.

    People are the only ones who try to plan to live for a long time, and avoid living in the process.

    Maslow was wrong. I’m self actualized, but I actually want to be George Clooney.

    Robert Burns was right, but he was only letting himself off the hook for accidental destruction.

    300 years later this is retreaded as “Shit Happens”

    Great post. I feel very existential here replying to this from the company loo.


  2. But are those truly plans? Or just biologically driven acts of survival?
    Even our closest primate cousins do not have event organizers or strategic planning committees. Nothing remotely close to it.
    I’m glad I could perpetuate deep thought in the office ;o)

    • BathtubGym Says:

      I vote for them being plans.

      Don’t you think nest building is planning?

      No, they don’t have Big Bird drawing out the blueprints, and Woodstock hiring the subcontractors … but in the end all that work is done with forethought.

      More than just the response of flying away from the chomping big teeth or the other eagle trying to kick you out.

      Often times it’s two birds building the nest too. Whole division of labor think.

      Why am I defending the ability of animals to plan something? Animals don’t have self-esteem. Elmo is proof of that.

  3. Randommsugirl Says:

    Love! Glitter saves the day:) my backup plan is glowsticks. I just have to plan and get some. . .


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