What you find out when you let go of your life plan

 April 14, 2015

By  Casey Berman


We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell


I have let go of and changed my life plan a few times.

Sometimes the circumstances around me forced me to change my plan.

And sometimes I had the courage and wherewithal to change the plan myself.

First, through my twenties and my graduation of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1999, I had my plan all figured out: Get a law degree, pass the bar, become a litigator, first work in criminal law to get some real life trial experience, and then move into civil litigation, where I could combine this experience with my natural speaking abilities and negotiation skills and with my interest in business and make good money.

And then I failed the bar.

So that plan immediately got changed on me.

As I was studying for the bar again, a friend put me in touch with a startup technology company. Once I passed the bar in February 2000, I left the criminal-law-to-business-litigation-track to do “Legal and Business Development” for a small startup.

Who knew failing the bar would open my mind to other opportunities?


Proactively changing my plan

Fast forward to 2004. I am now VP Operations and In-House Counsel for my second tech company. I’m gaining experience, our company is growing, and I’m beginning to excel in my role.

I now found myself knee-deep in another plan – to one day become a top notch Silicon Valley general counsel.

Except that I didn’t like being a lawyer. I didn’t want to be a Silicon Valley general counsel. It was too reactive (I spent a lot of time negotiating licensing agreements all day for the sales team) and not proactive enough (I wanted to be part of the team creating overall company strategy).

Sure it was the job many attorneys say they would die for, but for me, my interests and what I was good at didn’t align with what it took to be a lawyer.

But this time, I didn’t wait for an external circumstance to change my plan. I did it myself. I acted on these feelings.

I left. June 2004.

I was 31 years old. Got married later that year. Found a few consulting projects and part time executive roles to pay the bills. First child came in 2007, recession arrived in 2008, second child was born in 2010.

And amongst all of this, I began to let go of the life I had planned.

I was determined to live a life that I was more in alignment with, even if that meant going through periods of doubt, anxiety, unknown and change.

And while my parents still worried about what life path their up-to-this-point-practical-minded son was on, they both were very supportive: My mom bought me a magnet for my refrigerator which said “leap and the net will appear”.

I had leapt. I have definitely received my bumps and bruises on the way down. But this net has been there for me.

And it’s in large part because I created this net. In the tangible world, and in my own mind.


How to create the life (and net) that is waiting for you

Let’s begin to work on a life so that when we sit on the subway or when we go jogging on the weekend or when we begin to work less or when we begin to sit in a rocking chair most of the day or when we realize the end is near, we will know that we lived a life that we were good at and we enjoyed and were excited about and were proud of and that we created.

And that begins with making ourselves vulnerable.

When we have let go of our plan, we feel vulnerable. Being vulnerable is something we lawyers do not want to do. We think it is bad. It means we take a risk and we could make mistakes and we could be ridiculed and we will be exposed and we will be revealed and we will face unknowns and we will most certainly fail.

But when we let go of our plan, we realize that being vulnerable also means we open ourselves up for examination and critique and deciphering and that we become strangely okay with it, we become strangely open about it, we strangely look forward to it, we see that our success and happiness is strangely tied at first to being vulnerable. To being bare. To starting over. To becoming aware of opportunities we otherwise might have ignored.

Come, let’s try this, yes let’s try this, close our eyes, let’s try this, let’s re-examine this outline we’ve had for our life, this do-things-right-and-then-get-the-degree-and-get-the-job-and-get-the-family-and-get-the-stature-and-get-the-financial-cushion-and-get-the-what … get-the-what … get-the-what?

Let’s ask some tough questions. Why did I go to law school (really)? How do I feel about money? What if I couldn’t call myself a “lawyer”?

How well do I know myself? How mindful am I?

How can I do something for myself, for once?

Sometimes our mind can rush on and say things to us, and we think it is us saying something to us, we think it is us planning something for us, but it may not really be us.


Why we are on this planet

We are not on this planet to worry. We are not on this planet to be stuck. We are not on this planet to be anxious. We are not on this planet to always be right. We are not on this planet to always have a fiduciary duty. We are not on this planet to be stressed. We are not on the planet to follow some sort of plan.

No that is not why we are here.

We are here to enjoy. We are here to help. We are here to provide value. We are here to do what we do well. We are here to trust. We are here to feel worthy. We are here to feel self satisfied. We are here to be confident. We are here to not be confused. We are here to be certain. We are here to feel good about ourselves.

We are here to feel good about ourselves.

We are here to feel good about ourselves.

For the time being, let’s forget worrying about the “how” of leaving the law. Let’s forget trying to get our arms around the details of leaving the law. Trust that there are steps and a process and work to execute on that can empower us to leave the law.

Let’s just have faith (yes faith) that we can leave the law. Let’s remember that the most important thing about us is us. And not the plan.

Let’s forget the plan we have had for ourselves for so long. We may not even remember when we designed this plan, or why we implemented this plan, or who helped us with this plan.

But what we do know is that this plan may not be working for us now.

So let’s focus on one thing, us. Just us. Be selfish and myopic. Us. You. Really, really you.

When we resist who we really are, that can actually be the cause of our greatest suffering.

And we are not here to suffer.

Ready to take BACK Control of Your Life?

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