The Golden Rules: When Plans Don’t Go According to Plan

2. If Golden Rule #1 was start with a plan, Golden Rule #2 is this: realize your plan isn’t always going to work out. This. Is. Okay. Writer and speaker Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987) articulated this beautifully:

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Having a plan is important and good and right so you can make measurable progress toward your goals. But when things change, and that’s not an if, that’s a when, because change is as sure as anything in this life, be ready to change too.

Copper himself was not in the plan a couple of years ago. My daughter was a full time college student in Alabama, engaged to be married, and she decided it was a good time to get a new puppy. I said “No, not a great idea, at least not right now,” and didn’t give it a second thought. I guess she heard “Yes, by all means, go get one, and soon!” In early March 2013, just a few weeks before her wedding, Jen showed up with a solid, squirmy little ball of golden fluff. She named him Wright’s Golden Comfort — Copper for short.

“He won’t be any trouble! He can stay with me in my apartment!”

sleepy baby Copper

Two weeks later, Copper had moved in with me, and Jen visited him on the weekends. The puppy who wasn’t going to be any trouble immediately took over my house, my schedule, my floors, and my life. It was impossible to blame him — besides, I was too busy potty training, and mixing up puppy kibble, and keeping an eye on where he was and what he was getting into. We enrolled him in puppy obedience classes, and he was a great student. Class after class, he continued to love the challenge of learning new things — and we loved seeing him learn and grow.

Turns out while I may have thought Copper wasn’t in my loosely-mapped-out life plan, he was an enormous part of the plan unfolding in all our lives. When my daughter married and moved to Washington state, Copper stayed with me, living up to his given name of “Golden Comfort” more times than anyone could count. I finally quit trying to make life fit my plans and started planning to fully embrace the life that was happening.

Plans aren’t a bad thing. Rigid adherence to them in the face of certain change? Well, that may be more like an exercise in futility. Watching Copper, I get a sense of exactly how to meet changes in plans — he’s always ready, always watching, always enthusiastic, and always willing to change his plans in response to what unfolds around him. He can nap on a moment’s notice. He knows when we’re near his leash, his food dish, and his favorite treats and toys. He recognizes car keys and bath towels. He can even take his cues based on what we’re wearing, or not. Shoes on? Let’s go! Shoes off? Where can I lay down near you? Copper is a study in how to make, and modify, a good plan.

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