Your life doesn’t need a Grand Plan


I spent most of my prime working life trying to achieve some notion of success. To that end, I studied time management techniques, life goals evaluations, productivity hacks, and a variety of self-help techniques designed to propel me toward that mythical Nirvana of real-world achievement and complete fulfillment. I developed vision boards and spent hours visualizing the perfect life. I did everything they told me would bring ultimate happiness. It made me productive, but it didn’t make me happy.

An old parable says that a fool may have the intelligence to build a ladder to scale a wall, but a wise man will stop to ponder whether or not the wall is worth climbing. I was that fool, and my Sisyphean task in the real world generated a lot of heat but little light. I scaled the wall, but I hadn’t stopped to ponder whether or not the things I was chasing would bring me the satisfaction I desired.

I’ve had many occasions to rebuild my life’s dreams. Whenever a significant life change happened, my mind spent great effort reformulating my vision of where I wanted to be. I just went through one of these changes, but this time, rather than rebuilding the dream, I’m just living moment-to-moment and practicing Dharma. I feel no compulsion to recreate fantastical visions of my future. 

As I’ve progressed in my Buddhist practice, I’ve noticed my mind spends far less time wondering about future events. I don’t have the worries about imagined catastrophes, nor do I generate the fantasies about great fortune. I don’t look to vision boards to guide my actions. My life is simple. Present-centered. Easy.

The mind that used to grasp at future outcomes doesn’t arise as often. Once I deeply accepted that no matter what happens that I can accept it, then there are no future outcomes I need to work to avoid. That doesn’t mean I don’t take care of myself, but without attachment or aversion to any outcome, I can move forward in life with complete inner freedom and an absence of worry.

That works for me.

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I am Anattā. Not my real name, of course, but that’s the point. I selected the moniker Anattā because in Buddhism, my primary spiritual practice, the term anattā refers to the doctrine of “non-self”. In more practical terms, I chose the name Anattā because by writing anonymously, it’s far easier to be completely candid and honest. Further, there is no danger of my writing becoming tainted by any desire for self-aggrandizement. I write primarily to improve my own understanding of these topics, but my deepest desire for writing on this site is to help others.