In my dream last night, I left a class full of employees on their last day of our series, which I was the trainer. I’m not sure what the topic was but I remember having planned everything and feeling well prepared. I had my outline, I had arrived early to set up, I was ready to celebrate our coming together over a number of months, I knew how I was going to “test their knowledge.” Etc.
But I realized, once everyone had arrived, that I had forgotten something I needed. I was certain I would be able to run and get this item and return before our official start time. As dreams would have it, I got lost on my return to the class.
I was traveling franticly through this campus trying to find my way back. Each turn I took seemed to be the wrong one, taking me further away from my destination. I had been gone for what seemed like hours, and I was certain that many, if not all, had left the class, and that the person who hired me was furious I had been gone so long.
There I was, not sure what to do when, without my asking, a young lady who I had never seen before approached me and said that she would show me the way.
The route back to the class I was holding was a long one. I was amazed by the beautiful scenery. Stairs covered in lush vines making them undetectable (“The stairs there – just go down them and they will lead you to the pathway.”) And the size of the beautifully carved doors my guide told me to go through -- ones I never thought were available for "anyone" to pass (“You’ll use that wide wooden door. Just pass through the office and on the other side…”).
I followed this guide’s cheery voice through beauty in the midst of my angst. The vivid colors and personalities of random strangers who popped in and out of my dream spoke to all of my senses so much so that I woke – before arriving back to the class – with the question: “How do you pivot within the moment when plans aren’t enough?”
Literally, that was the question. I wrote it down on the pad I keep on my nightstand as soon as I woke – before coming here to share it with you.
As an artist, facilitator, and entrepreneur whose “day job” often carries the title of trainer, I know the layers of this dream aren’t coincidental. We could dig into this dream and talk about its messages and metaphors – that would be fun – but for now, what about the question? And the answer? I believe the general insights are universal and timeless., and worth sharing.
“How do you pivot within the moment when plans aren’t enough?”
I’m a recovering planner. This time in isolation is helping with that, I think. It’s helping me see myself clearer, with more honesty. Example: I write out each evening what I plan to do the next day. Sometimes I belabor it, but when the next day comes, I don’t go according to the written plan at all. Something comes up that’s often better: a new idea, a phone call from a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, a nap. I’m learning to be okay with that, to not feel I’ve let myself down, or someone else, if every moment isn’t filled being “productive.”
But there is also what the question implies: that plans sometimes aren't enough -- they don’t cover exactly or everything that is needed. Think about what we’re experiencing in the midst of this global pandemic. There are national plans for better care and response. There are plans for financial support. There are plans for more, fill in the blank. And those plans constantly change and we have to change with it.
Yet, whether we look at what we are collectively experiencing or our individual work, we have to admit that we cannot plan everything. Our contingency plans may not cover us either.
So what do you do? The question gives the answer: you pivot.
But how? For me, this dream doesn’t just pose the question, it also provides the answer. If I go back to what happens before the question is offered, I see three keys to pivoting, which I would like to offer:
Be honest about your plans not being enough. It’s great to have plans and guidelines and benchmarks, but there comes a time in the creative process – when you are exploring and expanding – that the plans are blueprints and not promises. This is true in every aspect of life. Look at what we’re experiencing now – there is data and there is speculation. It's okay to admit that you don't have all the answers all the time. It's okay for plans to fall through, as disappointing as that may be. Being honest and accepting that is how you move, how you pivot, from one line of thinking to the next, as seamlessly and gracefully as possible. And I don't mean gracefully as in not falling on your face in front of others (at some point you don't care what people think), I mean gracefully in the way your body on a cellular level handles change best.
Be open to being guided. Truth is, you nor I can’t go this alone. There are those who support you, and those you support. Sometimes you know your guides and other times they “come out of the blue.” It’s okay to seek them out too, to ask questions, to admit you’re lost or confused or scared. It’s also okay to hold the virtual hand of someone who has offered theirs for support. Truly, we are all in this together and we will not get through this pandemic without each other, even with social distancing and virtual connections.
Be willing to be surprised. The beauty comes in the moment (and there is still beauty to experience, my friends) – not in the plans or the ego’s desire to execute those plans and accomplish those goals. In the dream, I was so overcome with anxiety that my only focus was on being where I was “supposed” and expected to be. I would have easily missed the beauty if I had stayed focused on where I needed to be and not on where I was in that moment. If you stay in the current moment even for a little while, miracles and surprises come as gifts. It’s hard to believe sometimes because we are conditioned (fooled) into believing that if we just stay in control that everything will be okay.
I believe we will all walk away from the coronavirus changed. We will be different in a number of ways which are yet to be seen. Let’s record the days and measure our time. Let’s see what we missed yesterday and if, today, we can catch surprises like we catch lightening bugs. Let’s take more time to be in the moment rather than chasing moments yet to come and curing others. Let’s meet the stranger who smiles in our dreams and shows us the way. Let's plan but more importantly let's learn to pivot within the moments of change.