When I look back at my life I realize all my happiest moments involved plans falling through.
When Mom flips through a photo album and talks about the big moments in life that brought her joy, a wedding, a family reunion, a child’s piano recital, I realize all of my happiest, most fulfilling moments have involved finding out I didn’t have to go to those things.
I wish I’d taken more pictures of those moments.
Is there anything more satisfying than getting all bundled up to spend three hours on the icy sideline of your kid’s soccer game, and on the way out the door getting a call that the game has been cancelled?
Put that moment in a bottle and open it on the day that same kid graduates from college and tell me which moment is more satisfying.
I’m not talking about simple laziness. Humans have evolved to find laziness existentially unsatisfying. I’m talking about the power of good intentions.
Remember when friend A said he was moving and friend B immediately offered to help, and you pretended your phone was ringing and stepped out to take a call? And remember how jealous you felt when friend A decided not to move and friend B got all the pat-on-the-back utility of feeling like he was a good person without having to do any work?
Want to know the secret to winning life? Surveys have shown planning a trip can immediately improve happiness. Surveys have also shown no difference in happiness post-trip compared to somebody who stayed home. The secret is to plan and not take lots of trips.
Nothing beats the thrill of looking commitment in the eye, coming oh so close, and then saying, ‘That’s enough for today.’
Occasionally you will have to actually take a trip or your brain will stop believing your fake plans, but the good news is that once you step on that plane your utility work is done. I love to travel to exotic cities and never leave the hotel.
Oh, I leave the hotel room, but usually stop at the Starbucks in the lobby. I’ve had Starbucks vanilla lattes in all of the world’s great cities. I’ve sipped Starbucks in Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, London, San Francisco, New York, Paris, and Amsterdam, all while perched in a window, watching people on foot and bikes and in cars rushing towards a commitment to move a friend’s couch.
When the Starbucks barista asks my name I always answer, ‘Good Intentions.’
We’re in the midst of a ‘making plans’ revolution. Social media and 24/7 connection mean it only takes one second to make a 10-hour commitment, or a few seconds to make commitments that will occupy the rest of your year. There’s no correlation between the speed of making plans, and the hours available to follow through with those plans.
It used to be a lot of work to commit. You had to write and mail a letter. Or gather kindling to build a fire to send smoke signals. The slow pace of communication left plenty of time to remember doing things is the worst.
But here’s the solution: Technology has also made it easier to cancel plans. If you know you have a ‘making plans’ addiction, Meetup is the ‘canceling plans’ answer.
Think ahead and manage the addiction.
Every Sunday I look through a long list of interesting Meetups, and commit to one for every night of the week. I get all the commitment out of my system before somebody asks me to come to a recital or help with a move.
And every day I get to cancel plans. Yes, I occasionally do go to a Meetup, it’s important to keep tricking the brain, but most days I click a little button to cancel after experiencing a last second severe case of ‘good intentions’.