There’s a light-hearted movie called Dan in Real Life that has a terrific punch line at the end. The movie is about a widower with kids who finds love in the craziest way, and at the end of the story he talks about all the planning we do in life—for love, career, family and life in general. But the best kind of planning he says, is to plan to be surprised.
Whether you call it serendipity, destiny, good or bad luck, we all know that it’s true. Look at something as simple as a single day in your life. When was the last time everything that happened to you in a day was in your control?
And so how do we think the Japanese are feeling today? Surprise is what every day looks like for many of them right now. And yet, despite total upheaval—right down to the earth’s axis moving—they go on. It’s a fundamental lesson on the axiom be where you are.
After all, there really is nowhere else to be. If today you’re in your comfy home, and tomorrow you’re in a shelter with hundreds of people worrying mostly about where food and water is coming from, well, there you are. Yet how much energy do we put into bemoaning our circumstances, doing the “what ifs” and wishing it were different?
I see this idea of planning to be surprised as just another aspect of Guided Drift. And guided drift, of course, is that philosophy of knowing what you want to make happen in life, being clear about your values, goals, and abilities—all the while keeping yourself open to drift, and whatever comes your way.
Japan is full of Guided Drift right now. While there is an energy of fear and anxiety, we can also see peaking out from under the rubble an energy of newness—a new approach to life and new way of living. Each of us may take a different lesson from Japan’s recent experience with this mind-blowing earthquake. It can range from gratitude to excitement for a new way of living.
Stop for a moment and reflect on what this experience the Japanese people are having is teaching or reminding you. Gratitude? Amazement at the human spirit? Connectedness? Or maybe even a willingness to let go, to see the toggle between effort and surrender move a bit more towards surrender, and just being where you are, fully and completely accepting what is, and making a choice to work with that, as you take your next step.