Is this the Life you Planned?

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine told me she was not living the life she planned. My friend didn’t mention the specifics of how her life was falling short, but she was clearly depressed by it. I started to wonder how many of us live the life we planned. For that matter how many of us plan our lives? Most of us drag our big dreams behind us, rather than carrying them in front of us where we can watch them unfold. Was my friend really failing to live the life she planned or had she not really planned at all?

So I started looking around at my friends and family and realized that none of them seem particularly pleased with their lives. I started with those who planned their lives. Some set dates to be married, have children, change careers…. They seem no happier with their lives then those who have been living life as it comes. In fact, many of the people I know who planned marriages and children seem the most unhappy. It seems reality is no match for the fairy tale life they expected. But the free-wheeling folks aren’t happy either. They too are dismayed by their marriages, careers, living arrangements…

Despite my friend’s unhappiness she seems unwilling to put a plan in place to straighten her path to the future. Although she has dreams of quitting her job and pursuing her passions, she has made no attempt to pursue her passion outside of work. Despite the unhappiness in her marriage she is not seeking marriage counseling or taking any steps to correct their current problems. My friend believes she has failed to achieve the life she planned, but in fact she has made no plans at all.

I told her to try to break down her life into smaller components. Rather than thinking of life as a whole, think of it as a group of granular pieces, and then inspect each piece one by one. For example, am I happy in my marriage? Yes. (I hope my husband would say the same.) Am I happy with where I live? Yes. Am I happy with my family, even though they drive me crazy sometimes? Yes. Am I happy in my career? No. Am I happy with my health? Definitely not. When you break it down it’s much easier to be happy with life. Even if you aren’t happy with the whole of your life you can be happy with bits and pieces of it. Then you can decide which parts of your life need to change and put plans in place to make those changes.

Most of us are failing to live the life we dreamed of, which is very different from failing to live the life we planned. Although life will take you in many different directions you can not reach for something you never plan to achieve.

4 thoughts on “Is this the Life you Planned?”

  1. Very insightful post. It’s true that far too many people are dissatisfied with life. Perhaps it’s unforseen circumstances that change “plans”; or that plans weren’t realistic. I would venture to say it’s a matter of fear. I’d love to change career paths, but how would I get training and still live like I do? Maybe the unhappiness is worth it compared to the difficulty of night classes and sacrifices. And maybe the unhappiness is more a personal issue, not related to one of the classifications. It’s a tough situation…

  2. Reading through this, I was thinking, “I’m bummed that I’m not living the life I planned, but I’ve accepted it.” It became clear towards the end that I’m not living the life I *dreamed* of, but it’s by no means a bad life. If it’s not what I dreamed, then I let come what may and enjoy it for what it is.

    But I’ve planned and done what I could. There are still some things I need to work on (I need a new job!), but life would be a bit dull if everything went my way…wouldn’t it?

  3. Great point! I think ‘fear’ and ‘comfort’ are huge factors in the failure to pursue dreams. Although people are unhappy in their lives they are comfortable with them. That comfort keeps us driving to a job we don’t like, rather than risking it all to pursue a more rewarding career.

    In some ways my life is exactly the way I dreamed it would be and more, in others, like my career… it couldn’t be more different.

    As we all know the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

  4. Hmm… one interesting thing I once read was that retirees are generally happier than the rest of us.

    I think once you’ve reached a point where you don’t have to work anymore, and once you’ve achieved some sort of familial stability, its easier to appreciate and enjoy your life.


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