I love to form elaborate plans. As I’ve mentioned, my Halloween parties involve quite a lot of details pulled together in just the right way to pull off. Last year each attendee was given a name and role to play. They were provided with character summaries that helped lead to the solution for the murder that they discovered during the course of the party.
I spent months ahead of time crafting the story, devising clues and perfecting every prop. When the day arrived each guest was given a name tag with a lanyard and an envelope with the information about their character. My daughters were the hostesses of the movie premiere they were supposedly coming to see, and were given a short script that they had practiced ahead of time. Unknown to them however, when they opened the red velvet curtain (because what movie premiere doesn’t have velvet curtains?) they found the body.
Clues were hidden around the room, locked up in some cases, encoded in others. In my planning I had formed multiple paths, 3 to be exact, that could be followed concurrently so that there were multiple puzzles the kids could be working on at any given time. This was the first year I allowed the parents to participate and one of my friends who happens to be a computer programmer was excited to find ciphers that needed to be decoded.
There were keys and combinations, codes and symbols, and puzzle boxes to open, all leading to the answer to the question, “Who among us is a killer?”
And none of this includes the food, drinks, games and music that all needed to be included. You can see why this took so long to put together. I love to devise intricate clues that help guide them to the answer. It’s only April and I’m already anxious to start planning the party for this year….
But I’ve learned something. Sometimes life works out better when you’re not tied to a detailed plan.
I used to apply this same level of forethought into all areas of my life. I have written SMART goals that have actionable steps to complete that will lead me to success. I’ve mapped out my path, outlined it on a calendar, creating a schedule to ensure nothing is forgotten.
Yet the accomplishments I’m most proud of did not follow my plan. To be honest, almost nothing since my divorce has actually gone the direction I thought I should move.
The book that I just finished, for example, was written completely from inspiration, without a charted course or blueprint. The words flowed from me. As I’d walk around a thought would strike me and I’d pull out my phone to jot it down before I lost it. Laying in bed inspiration would strike and I’d grab a notebook to record the idea before it slipped away.
Entirely without arranging it, each idea in my book naturally led to the one that followed.
I wanted to discuss ways I’d changed my thinking that led me to a completely different life than the one I’d been living. I knew I wanted to write about accountability, perspective, gratitude and forgiveness, but other than that I just wrote and let the words come. At times the words flowed as quickly as a waterfall, almost drowning me in ideas that I could barely keep up with.
As I was putting the words together I began to realize that there were logical connections between each of these; there was a natural progression from one to the next.
- Once you accept that you are accountable for your current situation, for the decisions that have led you to where you are, you begin to realize that you can choose your response to situations.
- Once you can control your response, you can then decide to select the perspective that is not just appropriate to the situation but the one that will also serve you the best.
- Once you are aware that multiple perspectives exist and you acknowledge you can choose which one to respond to, you can cultivate a feeling of gratitude for any situation; you can find the lesson, choose the more favorable view, and be grateful for it.
- Once you begin to hold yourself accountable, find multiple perspectives and develop a true feeling of gratitude, you can use these to help you with the more challenging task of forgiving those who have wronged you, even if that person is yourself.
As I was writing the book, these connections became clear; but this was not part of a well crafted plan. I almost wish I could say it was because honestly that would have been brilliant!
Instead this is something that came simply from doing, not from holding myself to a well formed path. But honestly I don’t believe the book would have been nearly so insightful if I had forced myself to stick to an outline. I am certain it is because I kept an open mind that I was able to find these connections at all.
Perhaps this is what people refer to as “flow.” But whatever it is, I want to connect with it for every project…except maybe the Halloween party.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Elaborate