What is your plan?

Life passes very quickly by us! It simply happens! We have to face all kinds of challenges without being able to control them. But we, still, can do something about it! We can decide how to respond to everything that happens to us. And, for that, we need a plan! Not a plan regarding what we want to have, but a plan regarding who we want to be! A plan about us, based on which we can write the story of our lives!

Each of us has some temporary landmarks and each one has a meaning, whether it’s a special event in our life or a community celebration. But, beyond these meanings, our landmarks tell us that time passes.

If you are like me, you probably ask yourself, at the beginning of every December, how another year has just passed by. You had so much to do, but you simply did not have enough time. On the other hand, life seems to be quite monotonous. We go to our jobs from  Monday to Friday, weekend comes and, after that, we repeat the whole thing over and over again. And during this “movie” there are also some “advertising breaks” – holidays and short vacations. But, is that all? Is that what life means? Or maybe life is trying to tell us something and we miss the message.

I remember the lessons from the seminary and the theology faculty. There, we were told that God had had a plan with the whole world before it was created. That is, before time even existed. And then we also were told that an important part of this plan was the free will of created beings, which means that they can determine their own destiny, their way in life.

Of course, there is always the question: If God has planned everything, can we talk about free will? The answer is: “YES!” (In capital letters)! The fact that God established natural laws and left men as masters of the seen creation does not mean that he left the world by itself and “withdraw” into His infinity. Also, it doesn’t mean that He controls our minds transforming us into small robots depending on a “software” implanted in ours beings since birth.

In my opinion, the strongest proof that God had a plan with the world from the beginning is the book of Revelations itself. Here, the end of the world, as we know it, is presented to us. The most interesting part is that we are not told when the end will be, but just how it will happen.

Therefore, it is important to ask whether we, endowed with free will, have a plan for our lives. I’m not talking about those things that most of us dream about with open eyes in the eve of the most difficult exams. There, it’s about money, cars, homes, holidays, gorgeous clothes, etc., that is, in general, what is assimilated to the success in our consumer society. I am referring to the true plan, which reveals our true personality. The plan of who we want to become, the imprint we want to leave in the world, the way we want the world to remember us.

If you have not had time to think of such a plan, then I propose an imaginative exercise. Let’s say you were the storyteller and not the main hero of your life. How would you want it to happen? And, especially, how would you want it to end? What impression would you like your audience to have after seeing this movie?

If it’s still hard, then, I have a suggestion. In his book, “The 7 Habits of Effective People,” Stephen Covey proposes an imaginative exercise with deep emotional impact. He asks us to imagine that we are witnessing our own funeral and that they invited four people to talk about us: a relative, a friend, one of the people we have worked with in our profession, and a member of the community we had lived in. What would you like them to say about you? How would you like them to describe you?

I know! It’s not an impression, it’s a rough exercise indeed! But so it’s life! It simply happens! It passes by and we are bombarded with all sorts of events we have no control over. And we must, somehow, find a way to go through these challenges and, like the heroes from the fairy tales, at the end, we have to be able to smile!

That is why, we must learn to tell the story of our lives. We have to imagine it and think of all sorts of endings and choose the one that suits us best. And then let’s start telling it! As many times as possible! Because the stories have something magical, something that can not be explained, only noticed. If they are told many times, they transform the one who tells them. Because, every time, the story of each of us will reveal new meanings and will help us to learn new lessons.

Thus, we will understand that, in God’s plan for the world, there can be integrated the plans that we each think for our lives. This is because God conceived the world as a communion of beings who are attracted through love to Him. Consequently, the story of every person who loves becomes a smaller story that is part of the great story of God’s love for entire creation. And the end of this story always is “they lived happily ever after”, because the one who loves is in communion with God, and communion with God means that death is not the end of the story, but the fact that the story is happily continued in another realm of existence.

It has been said about Christian religion that it teaches man how to die, and for this he must be prepared. Being able to choose the end for the story of his life! So, have you figured out how you want your lives to be? Do you know the goals that define you as spiritual persons and not just as material ones? What is the end you want for your stories?

P.S .: Wait, do not answer yet! The following story might give you some ideas!

One day, a young man who wanted to learn to write books came to his mentor and saw him with three things on his desk – a handwritten note, a cartoon CD, and a trophy from a tournament polo riding. Curiously, he asked him what he needed them for. The writer told him that those objects helped him write the book he was working on. Then the young man asked him why he did not simply write it down. After all, he was recognized for his imagination and talent.

Then the writer explained that on the note it was written: “I’m not writing a book. I’m not even writing a chapter. But I know I can tell a story, and if I say enough stories, I’ll write a chapter, and if I keep telling stories, I’ll have enough chapters for a book.” Thus, the note helped him to divide his task into something easy and funny. Therefore, he was focused on small tasks, but he was looking at an important goal.

The cartoon was about a character who had just finished writing its autobiography, when a lightning stroke his computer and all his work until then was lost. In the final scene, the character was with its fingers on the keyboard of a new computer and, resigned, said “Let’s get to the abridged version”! This cartoon was meant to remind the writer that although he might have a clear objective and have a very precise plan to achieve it, life was full of challenges. So, regardless of the obstacles, it was important for the writer not to give up and to understand that, in fact, trouble also came with important lessons.

The third object, the polo-riding trophy, was telling him two things. The first one remembered him that he did not like to clean the mess of his horse, although it took him only 15 minutes. One day, when he complained about it, a colleague laughed and said, “You are willing to spend hours in the saddle in a polo tournament that can last for two days, but you are not willing to spend 15 minutes for hygiene of your horse?” He was right! We do not do only what we like in life, but we have to keep our attention focused on purpose.

The second thing the polo trophy told meant that success was possible. The team of the writer was not the best, and he and his colleagues participated in the competitions because they liked the game. Therefore, the trophy came as a surprise. It told them that by doing what you like, you can become victorious, and that in success there was, however, the chance of pleasure[1].

[1] Adaptation from George W. Burns, 101 poveşti vindecătoare pentru adulţi, trad. Daniela Ştefănescu, Editura Trei, București, 2012, pp. 287-290.