Life Feels Better When You Have a Plan

On my walk to work each morning, I pass a bus stop sporting an advertising hoarding for Scottish Widows’ life assurance products. (The Scottish Widows mascot is such a young widow, poor woman.)
Their strap-line for this current campaign is, “Life feels better when you have a plan.” And on their website, they talk about how having a plan makes life feel “lighter.”

What caught me about this new campaign is its truth; life does feel better when you have a plan. But I suspect that, in an effort to sell more life assurance policies, the campaign managers were hoping readers would interpret this as “Life is better when you have a plan” and therefore, “Life sucks unless you have a plan” and onto the conclusion, “Life follows a plan. Buy yours now. Rest assured.”

Plan To Be Happy, Don’t Be Happy To Plan

When you see detailed plans in software development projects, you can tell that a certain group of people draw great comfort from them. They provide the illusion that a chain of events will happen, culminating in the plan’s ultimate delivery or conclusion. And when these plans are printed large and bold on a massive wall, their impressiveness is hard to resist. They look awesome!

If you’re an Agility fanboy (or girl) like me, and specifically if you’re a Scrum Master, you’ve probably preached to developers and Product Owners and Stakeholders about the need to not have a plan. Or rather, you probably educate them about how plans change and how by not having a firm plan is actually an enabler and permitter of change. It also breeds the ability to cope with change. After all, how many agile projects do you know of that use a Gantt chart to work out what’s happening deep into the future?

Death and Taxes

Life’s two certainties, according to Benjamin Franklin. I’ll add a third: uncertainty. Nature has no plan and has little respect for yours. Making a plan for life is fruitless.

OK, harsh and depressing words admittedly,  but allow me to provide some solace. The journey you embark upon while trying to realise your life plan is likely to be more fruitful than the plan’s conclusion. In fact, I’ll bet it’ll always be more fruitful. This is because life and Nature throw things at you which you never expect, and it’s by coping with those changes, those curveballs, those monumental cock-ups, that can force you to change direction, make a new plan, invest in coping strategies (in case the same thing happens again), run away and hide until you think of a way to deal with it, and the rest. And it’s highly likely that after you’ve made these adjustments, you’ll feel happier or, to quote the aforementioned ad campaign, “better.”

And so it is in software development. And music production. And bathroom installations.

I’ll end with these words from humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.

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