It’s frustrating, really. That feeling you get when you believe what you're telling yourself, and then something happens, and what you're telling yourself goes completely out the window.
You see, everything we do in the world requires some semblance of a plan. And during the planning phase, before we go out into the world and test our assumptions, our emotions are always even keel and predictable. It’s math and probabilities, really. When you plan, step one will cleanly lead to step two, and even if it doesn’t, your contingency plan is there to tidy everything up and get you back on track.
“If I quit my job and start a lifestyle business, I’ll replace my income in less than a year, and then I’ll be location independent and can travel anywhere I want!” How many of us have said these words, or said something similar? It’s simple when it’s on paper, your plan. It’s a lot less so when it’s attempted in the real world.
The problem is that we can’t predict our emotional responses to the inevitable and unsuspected twists in our otherwise straight plan. We can’t write out our flow of emotions on paper before we’ve actually felt them flowing. Therefore, while your plan’s first step always leads to the following step, your emotions do nothing of the sort. Emotion A, which rationally should elicit emotional response B, instead causes you to feel C. And emotion C was nothing you were prepared for.
Emotions are inherently irrational. When executing a plan, what you want may not be what you need, and what you need may be nothing you actively want. However, tell that to your emotions. You impulsively want what you impulsively want, and who are you to say otherwise?
But, when those emotional impulses cause you to deviate from your plan, it may have adverse effects. Or, it may not. Say you’ve always wanted to move across the country, and you decide to do so in two months time, but then you meet someone whom you become immediately infatuated with. You go on a couple dates and you quickly realize that this potential relationship really has…well, potential. Now what?
You could follow through with your plan. You could scrap it altogether and put your emotional eggs in this new basket. You could move anyway and try to maintain a long-distance relationship. Which real-world plan is the right one? Are any?
The danger lies in the real-time execution of your plan. When you’re in your planning phase, and if you’re doing it correctly, the plan always results in the achievement of your deepest desires. So, when you finish planning and enter the active phase, you immediately start moving towards the attainment of your overarching life goals.
And then life takes an inevitable twist. Something happens that either shows you how hard your road will be, or it shows you that maybe your goal isn’t what you want after all. Realizing the blood, sweat, and tears needed to attain your ideal life is an important realization, but we’ll gloss over it here. Sorry, but no. For this article, we’re much more interested in the twists that elicit an emotional response in such a way that it makes you second guess your path completely.
Because when that happens, we have two options: stay the course or adjust the sails. Which one is correct?
The problem is that the decision is inherently wrapped in emotion. Using the example above, the original goal of a cross-country move is emotional. It’s exciting for the new experiences it’ll bring and scary because you’re leaving friends, family, and familiarity behind. Conversely, meeting that special someone who causes you to second guess your planned move is also emotional. And when you’re driven solely by your emotions, you run the risk of making an ill-informed decision.
Let’s say that you end up deciding to move across the country. Did you just forgo a chance at meeting your potential future spouse, something you’ve always wanted? Or, do you explore your new emotions and stay. Well, what happens if the relationship quickly sours or the person turns out to be less than you thought?
There’s danger there, running on emotion, but really, there’s no danger at all.
What’s so dangerous about an unforeseen fork in the road? Well, horror movies aside, nothing really. A fork in the road is simply a chance to explore the possibility of new opportunities. And anyway, isn’t emotion what we’re really after? That goal you’re trying to achieve, you know, the one you keep planning for, isn’t it just a feeling, and not a thing in of itself?
Fast cars, fun friends, and a well-traveled life - all of these are goals, and all of these elicit positive emotional responses. So, whatever you’re chasing, whatever you’re planning to go after, isn’t physical but metaphysical. It’s the joy you get from living the moment, one moment at a time.
So then, if this is the case, wouldn’t a twist in your life plan - one that causes an emotional response - be a blessing? It’s causing you to feel, dammit! Isn’t that the whole point?
Your cross-country trip will still be there. It’ll always be there, plate tectonics permitting. Just because you met someone doesn’t mean you have to deviate from your plan. Rather, what it gives you is the opportunity to explore a new set of emotions in the interim. And if those emotions become increasingly positive, well, then you have the opportunity to explore them further.
And then a fork in the road only becomes a slight deviation, adjustment, or expansion to your overarching plan. Date this person; stick around for a while. If the relationship fails? Great! You’re right back on track. And if it doesn’t? Amazing! Chances are that if you’re staying with them, they value travel as much as you, and you may have just found a travel partner for the next chapter of your life.
However, a word to the wise: don’t place your happiness solely on the emotion that caused you to rethink your plans. There is great danger here, real danger. The more weight and importance you put on this proverbial relationship, for example, the more likely it can control you, rather than it being an uplifting part of your life’s mosaic.
So leave, or stay. But first, sit down and meditate. Live deep in your emotions. When faced with a fork, your body will tell you what way explore first.