When I was a senior in high school my true love was a sophomore in college. That was back in the day when long distance calls were expensive, and we wrote piles of earnest letters full of angst and idealism.
One day I received a letter that signaled the beginning of the end of the relationship. That was the letter in which my boyfriend announced how many children we would have and what we should name our first son.*
In a flash, our love affair, which had up to that moment been overflowing with promise and possibility, gave me a feeling of impending doom. I could feel the walls close in.
You could even say it gave me the creeps.
And I wanted out.
Your business is like a love affair
If you love your work, your business is a sort of love affair. And the possibilities for your affair are always much, much greater than you can imagine. That’s because your personal imagination is necessarily constrained by your personal experience and knowledge.
But fortunately and marvelously there is a vast field of possibility beyond the limits of your personal imagination. That field of possibility emanates from the formless energy behind all things. Some call it Mind. Some Source. Some the Divine.
Whatever you call it, it’s bigger than you are. Way bigger.
And that’s a good thing.
Planning can foreclose possibility
When you plan too soon or too much, you foreclose that field of possibility. Not only does this severely limit your options, it can leave you feeling boxed in. Pushed around.
And quite naturally, you’ll want out.
Wanting out doesn’t mean you don’t want to be in business
Wanting out because you experience your business as confining and a source of pressure doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to be in business.
It could simply mean that you have a healthy aversion to living a smaller life than you were designed to live.
It could simply mean that your personal imagination isn’t offering you possibilities that light you up. Possibilities that engage and inspire you.
Possibilities that would make being in business a creative, stimulating, satisfying adventure.
Planning isn’t a bad thing
I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan. Planning has its place. It’s quite helpful when it comes to following through on an idea.
It’s great for managing how you’ll do things.
It’s terrible for revealing what things to do.
Planning is great for getting from point A to point B.
It’s terrible for deciding whether or not point B is a good place to go.
How to plan for a wide open future
The key to planning for a wide open future is to recognize that vast field of possibility and orient yourself around it. Here’s what that might look like.
Remember the vast field
Remember that there is a vast field of possibility far beyond what is available to your personal imagination. Relax and notice your connection with it. (This is one of those irritating things that requires not doing rather than doing. Sorry about that.)
Start with a blank slate
Step back from your good ideas. Give yourself some breathing room. Get curious.
Trust the value of glimmers and inklings
As your curiosity expands, you’ll catch glimmers of possibility. You’ll have inklings of what might be cool to do. These are important. Trust that they have value and don’t be in a hurry to nail them down.
Pay attention to what shows up
As you heed your glimmers and inklings, pay attention to what shows up. Have conversations. Ask questions. And stay with the attitude of curiosity rather than pushing for an answer.
Let yourself be guided by a nice feeling
When an emerging possibility is accompanied by a nice feeling, move toward it. Take the next natural step–the very next one–and let go of what steps 2 through 10 should be.
Let the future surprise you
My teenage love affair died because it shut off more possibilities that in opened up. That doesn’t have to happen to your business. Put possibilities before planning and get out of the way.
You may surprise yourself with how much you want to be in business.
* Don’t get me started on why he didn’t think of a name for our first daughter.
Main photo credit by Jer Kunz via Flickr