It's true, I am the guy who has in times past made to-do lists that informed me exactly when to brush my teeth and exactly how long it should take me. I think we can all agree that that level of planning is more than slight over kill.
Having interacted my whole life with both types of people, and trying myself to be an understanding kind of guy, I have been able to see the benefits, and downfalls of both the Planner, and the Improviser's approaches. Let's look at them.
The first thing we need to know, is that we do need to understand each view. Being a Planner is not a sin. Being an Improviser is not a sin either. I can't count the movies where one character is a Planner and meets and Improviser who shows them the joys of life and living free and real (think Hello Dolly!). But at the same time, there are many movies about how the foot-loose and fancy free character meets the Planner and eventually has to learn to settle down and take some responsibility (think Two Weeks Notice). I may be biased because I am a Planner, but I think Hollywood makes the Planner out to be the “wrong” one more often. But let's remember, neither are right or wrong when in moderation, but both are wrong when they are our exclusive approach.
First, let me pick on myself and talk about Planners. We need to understand a few things about the Planner. If we don't, we could really hurt them. A Planner can view the Improviser as extremely hurtful and disrespectful, since an Improviser will often take one look at a Planner's plans, shrug them off and come up with a new impromptu idea on the spot. The Improviser doesn't mean any harm. He or she just wants to be organic and not tied down to the ball and chain agenda. The problem is that the Planner took time to think that through, and in one moment, the Improviser has thrown all that effort, and consequently the feelings of the Planner, in the trash. Often times a rejection of a plan, feels like a rejection of the Planner. It really shouldn't feel this way, since the Planner shouldn't get so attached to their plans. After all, the Bible tells us not to get hung up on plans, saying that we shouldn't say “tomorrow I will go to such and such a city” but rather, “Lord willing.”
So what are some of the positives of being a Planner? A Planner can actually enjoy more free spontaneity in theory. Why? Because a Planner has taken care of all their responsibility in an orderly fashion, and has saved more time. Planners tend to get things done, where Improvisers are known to half finish things.
Now what about the cons? Planners can get far too stuck in their own little plans. A Planner can arrogantly line up all their ducks in a row, without asking anyone else about the ducks first. Planners simply put have a tendency towards pride and temptations to be controllers. These cons are often what is more visible to those who aren't Planners, and it's what makes them glad they aren't Planners.
So let's look at Improvisers. He or she believes in living in the moment. And the Christian ones believe in God's guidance in the here and now. The problem comes when they assume God won't sometimes give you things to plan in advance as well as the “in the now” spontaneity. God is both an Improviser and a Planner. He planned all of our days before the world began. He isn't making it up as He goes. But when we mess up, he improvises on our behalf. But of course, it's never because he was caught off guard, but he works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purposes. But again, for people, planning and improvising aren't matters of rightness and wrongness, so let's get back to Improvisers.
We need to understand Improvisers and their thoughts and feelings. They can see plans as hindrances, weights that aren't meant to be. It is for freedom Christ set us free, not so that we can be tied down by false gods of time or agendas. And in this, Improvisers are right. Which is why if you make plans, they need to be subject to Christ.
In the same way that Planners can see improvisation as disrespectful, Improvisers can see planning as an attempt at dominance. You have no right to impose a yoke of bondage onto someone who is free.
Let's look at some of the pros of Improvisers. He or she is someone who can find solutions, find fun things to do, or redirect something that is otherwise stuck. Improvisers are the people who can rescue your group by building a helicopter out of an orange a Swiss army knife and a rubber band, while the Planners are still trying to figure out why the original regulation helicopter broke in the first place! Improvisers are the MacGyvers. They are the people who have come along side me and broke me out of my moments of legalism and rigid way of doing things.
There are downsides though. A difficulty plugging into teams who have already agreed on a pathway and plan is one. Ironically being an Improviser doesn't make someone flexible. We all struggle with inflexibility, simply in different ways. Another downside is unreliability. When an Improviser says they will do something, or be somewhere, often times you can be left wondering if it's true, since they could have broken their word in regards to time so often in the past when they “improvised” in a new direction at the last minute.
So what do we do? We can see some pretty amazing strengths in both plans and improvisation. Myself, I want to be much more of an Improviser. But the solution isn't abandoning our God given natural ways of thinking. The solution is instead to embrace growth so that we can have a healthy balance of both plans, and improvisation.
One more thought, let's take away from this not a criticism of the different streams of thought, or a defence for our own style, but instead an understanding for each other, and a commitment to be more accommodating to each other. This kind of accommodation is easier than it sounds. Are you a Planner? Plan to improvise when you are with those Improvisers in your life. Are you an Improviser? Improvise today and make plans with the Planners in your life. Planners are simply Improvisers improvising on what they will do in the future. Improvisers are simply Planners on the fly. So this shows we need each other to release us from the stresses we cultivate ourselves.
But all of us, let's try and learn a balance by allowing God to guide us either to plans, or off the plans we thought we had.
What about you? Are you a Planner or an Improviser? What do you do to balance your natural tendencies?
In Christ Jesus,