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Happiness: Know When to Plan and When Not To

Lately, it seems as if human beings need a plan for everything. Do these plans make you a happier person? Fewer and fewer people can get through the day without a BlackBerry. Parents plan for their children’s college education when the kids are in kindergarten. There are retirement planners, travel planners, wedding planners, and even people who — for a fee — will help you plan the perfect birthday for your 5-year-old.

But as with many things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. Planning becomes excessive or unbalanced when every second is accounted for well in advance, leaving no room whatsoever for the three Ss: surprises, spontaneity, and serendipity:

  • Surprise: Everyday life seldom goes exactly according to plan. There’s always a surprise or two in store for you somewhere along the way. Actually, surprises are what make one day different from the next. If your schedule is jam packed, any surprise — even a happy one — will be seen as an intrusion and will leave you feeling stressed.

  • Spontaneity: Sometimes it pays to act in the moment without a whole lot of thoughtful consideration. If a friend calls and wants you to meet them at Starbucks for coffee, don’t think about whether you should or not, just say YES!

  • Serendipity: The word serendipity literally means “happy accident.” You have a moment of serendipity when you run into an old friend on the street, when an appointment is cancelled and you have an hour of free time, or when you get two complimentary tickets to the opening of a new museum. You’ll always have the plan. The question is, will you ever have this opportunity again?

Allow for the unexpected, unplanned, and unforeseen events, circumstances, and challenges that come your way each day. If you take advantage of the opportunities that fall into your lap, instead of sticking religiously to a schedule, you’ll make each day one of surprise, spontaneity, and serendipity — and increase your happiness, too!

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