For someone who studied urban planning, I am not naturally very good at planning ahead for activities in my everyday life, particularly when it comes to how I spend my precious free time. I got into planning because I like cities and I want them to be better places for people to live. But planning for my own happier existence just isn't one of my natural strengths. I've had plenty of happy moments, to be sure, and not all happy moments are planned. But I have to be very intentional and focused to change my natural inclination to not plan ahead because I think it's an important ingredient to living a meaningful life.
For as far back as I can remember, I've been more of a go-with-the-flow type of person. I like spontaneity, and still value it. And more than likely if someone suggests that we do something fun and I don't already have plans, I'm probably going along for the ride. But there was a time when I relied too heavily on other people to bring value into my life by hitching onto their plans.
There is nothing inherently wrong with allowing others to bring value into your life. But if you rely on other people for your happiness, you're also giving other people a lot of control over your time, focus, energy, and resources. You may also be putting your friendships at risk if there is a lack of reciprocity by not bringing value into your friends' lives if you're leaning too heavily on them to support your own happiness.
Now that spring is upon us, it's the perfect time to plan some summer get-togethers or getaways. You may already have been bombarded with invitations to open houses, weddings, barbecues, and camping trips. If not, I assure you they will come. Sooner than you think. You may even feel an obligation to fill up your calendar with everything that comes your way. But know that planning ahead allows you to be more selective. Planning is being intentionally selfish with your time, but not in the negative sense of the word 'selfish'. The positive form of selfishness ultimately empowers you to spend your time doing what makes you happy with those people who make you feel the happiest. Choice is happiness.
Before your calendar fills up and spring comes to an end, take a look ahead and think about how you actually want to spend your time this summer. Block out an hour or two on your calendar this weekend (with your partner if you have one) and start brainstorming some of your bucket list items and how you can make them reality in the coming months. If you're tight on cash, think of creative ways to save a little money right now. I'm currently trying out an app called Qapital which helps me save automatically whenever I swipe my card. Without getting too wonky, there are even some cool integrations with the app IFTTT which can reward your savings account when you do things like reach your Health app step count for the day. Maybe it will work for you. Alternatively, maybe you can sell some things from around the house when you get your spring cleaning done. Get creative.
Even though I'm not a natural planner, I love that slow build of anticipation and excitement that comes with waiting for a trip that I've planned, even if I'm only going away for a long weekend. For a couple of months now, my partner and I have been anticipating a trip to the redwoods, a bucket list item I've wanted to check off for a few years. There is absolutely nothing extravagant or spectacular about what we've planned (aside from the trees, the trees! And if you didn't know, its National Parks Week! Admission is free to parks for Earth Day weekend!). But the anticipation makes it so much sweeter, especially after the hibernation-inducing winter we had. And most of all, it allows us to spend some time on our values instead of letting others dictate them for us.