I used to feel privately guilty for not setting goals for my marriage (as one person says I should do) or my year (says another), or make a 5-year plan (as so many motivational speakers insist is necessary). "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," I'm told with emphasis. "If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get anywhere." I'm supposed to have planned out my career path, my dreams, my big ideas. Because I didn't, I've apparently gotten nowhere and am just a total loser.
So I was delighted, absolutely delighted, to read a particular passage from Live Long and . . . , William Shatner's new book. The man so famously known as Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise is now 87 years old and going like a house afire. He's busy, he's on the ball, he's as bright a bulb as ever, he's got a gazillion followers on Twitter, and people like him make me know that each generation is redefined by the people who represent it most brilliantly.
Shatner begins the book by speaking gratefully of his long life and the mysteriously wonderful things he has been able to do, things he never expected, never looked for, never planned for. Here's the passage that made me nod in complete and thankful agreement:
"Years ago people confidently planned for their future, picking a profession and studying for it and working hard at it only to discover years later that this profession no longer existed. Technology had replaced it. The path that people had pursued so diligently and in many cases had become expert, had come to a dead end. . . . If I do have any wisdom at all it is limited to the area of my own experiences. . . .
"My career and my plans have always been dependent on the next phone call. And I never knew when--or even if--the phone was going to ring. We are under the illusion that we choose our own path, but we don't. The road isn't even paved. The road is being tarred as we go along. Those big rollers are just ahead of you and you walk along the road that you think you have chosen, but in effect you have little control over your life. Circumstances visit and you go along. You follow the winding road, you make some choices, but for the most part we are dependent on factors not under our control. Things happen. I never thought I would be an actor. I never thought I would make albums or write books. I never thought I would make speeches on subjects I had to research. All the various things that I have done--the acting, the traveling, the music, the books, the horses and motorcycles--all were not things I dreamt of doing. The opportunities presented themselves and I embraced them."
Honestly--I couldn't have said it better myself. Too many successful lights in our world became luminaries because they followed what came along, what appealed to them. Don't beat yourself up if you aren't a big goal-maker. You just might boldly go . . . you know. Where no one's ever.