Nimble Amid Ever-Changing Plans

Life is full of chaos, but you were made to be engaged and ready
By Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net
September 9, 2021 Updated: September 9, 2021

With the world in so much flux these days, many of us find it difficult to deal with ever-changing plans.

It’s always been a challenge, but as with so many things, it’s become an in-your-face challenge these days.

Some people really struggle when plans are always changing—it can be frustrating and feel like there’s no solid ground under our feet. Other people seem to love having no solid plans. Their challenge is often that they can’t seem to commit to anything regular, don’t want to be tied down, and often have difficulty focusing.

Today, I’m talking to those who struggle with rapidly changing plans.

What if you could learn to be nimble and resilient when plans change? What if you could find focus in the middle of the chaos? What if you could learn to surf the erratic waves of life?

This is the promise of learning to relax with uncertainty and navigate uncertain waters.

Key Ideas

Every change is a training.

When someone changes plans on us, we can (and often will) get frustrated with them for changing things up on us at the last minute. And while we can talk with them about it if it becomes an ongoing problem, sometimes changes are unavoidable. What if, instead, we embraced the change as a training opportunity to get better at being nimble and resilient with change?

We could then be grateful for this beautiful training opportunity. Thank the person. And then turn toward our own frustration, or resistance to change, as a way to grow in this area.

Use changes to stay present.

The training we can do, when presented with the opportunity of a change in plans, can simply be to remember to be present. Simply open to the experience of the present moment. When we’re frustrated with changes, it’s because we are fixated on what we expected things to be, things that are no longer true. What if we focused instead on what is right in front of us, the reality on the ground?

In this way, change training is simply mindfulness training. Learn to be open to the moment that’s unfolding, unpredictable, unplanned, but still breathtakingly wondrous.

Learn to relax with uncertainty.

When a change in plans presents itself, we often will feel a tug of uncertainty at our hearts. It’s the feeling of the rug being yanked from under us. We feel a moment of fear. That can turn into a train of thought: “Why can’t I just have one day of peace?” And so on, until we’ve turned a momentary feeling of uncertainty into a pervasive feeling of disquiet.

What if, instead, we could feel the sensation of uncertainty in our bodies, and simply turn our attention to it and be with it? What if we could practice relaxing with the uncertainty? It doesn’t have to be turned into a frustrating narrative (though that might still happen). We could simply experience the change.

Practice flowing with changes.

Once we learn to relax with uncertainty and be open to the unfolding ever-changing moment, we can learn to flow. Like a surfer on a wave that’s always changing. It can actually be fun: “Let’s see how good I can get at flowing with change, let’s see how nimble I can be. Let’s see how calm and determined I can remain amid uncertainty.”

That state means that when there’s a change, we can relax and make a very simple decision: What is best here? Then take that next simple step with ease.

You can find focus in chaos, with practice.

With a lot of changes, we can have difficulty finding focus: “It’s chaotic. Why is this happening?” Actually, we can find focus, but it takes practice.

The practice is simply this: Pause to consider what you’d like to focus on. If you’re feeling chaotic, turn toward that sensation and relax with it. Then, create the space to focus. If the change requires immediate reaction, deal with it, but in most cases, you can allow yourself to focus on the feeling of that chaos.

Even if it’s 10 minutes of focus, you can practice it. Clear the space, give yourself one thing to do. Make it your entire universe. Pour yourself fully into it. Come back to this focus when your mind gets distracted. Keep practicing.

Structure is very helpful, but don’t be attached.

I highly recommend structure as a way to create a little order for what you need to take on. If you need to regularly do some focus work, but also email, messages, finances, chores, planning, and exercise, create spots in your day or week for all of these. It will help you actually get the important commitments done.

That said, when we get too attached to our structures, we can get frustrated when things get messy. Maybe someone sprung something on us. Maybe something unexpected came up. Maybe we don’t stick to the structure because we’re tired and things get sidetracked. When these things happen, it feels like everything has fallen apart, and then we can get frustrated, discouraged, and lose focus or motivation.

The practice can simply be to hold the structures with as much discipline as we can, but without attachment. That means holding to our plans as much as we’re able to, but then when things change, we practice flow:

What needs to be adjusted in the moment when there’s a change?

What would be best now that the structure isn’t possible at the moment?

Then once we’ve made an adjustment, we can simply return to the structure as soon as possible.

Seek joy in the middle of the storm.

Things can feel very stormy, and for a lot of people, that can bring anxiety and frustration. But what if we can learn to open up to the storm and embrace it?

In my life, I have come to feel awe at the powerful beauty of storms, to delight in their swirls and unpredictability, to see the art in the middle of the gale. When I see this in an actual storm, it reminds me to practice seeing this in the chaos of my daily life.

You don’t fully come alive without challenge. You don’t fully engage with your senses and abilities without something that demands that you stretch your capacity.

What beauty can you find in the chaos of your life today?

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net