Life: planned or spontaneous?

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Finding the Middle Ground 

By Amy Hartman, MA, LPC, NCC, RPT

People who know me would say I’m a practical, down-to-earth counselor. I tend to talk about goals, steps to meet them, and how we’re going to get there. I always have a map in my head, guiding the sessions toward the desired outcome as defined by the client. On the other hand, I’m acutely aware how much in this world is not on the map. In the face of forest fires, stabbings and tornados there is only so much we can do. No matter how prepared, protected, knowledgeable, or aware we are, we still can’t control everything. And, no matter how well we plan, research, or make the right choices we can’t predict the moments that will take our breath away – falling in love, seeing our child for the first time, enjoying the perfect sunset at the end of a long hike, or adopting a new furry friend.

Couples I see lately have gotten into this age-old debate. Joel loves to surprise Cindy with dinner plans, weekend getaways and gifts, and he can’t understand why she gets frustrated with him. Cindy schedules her time precisely. If she wants to have a girls’ night out she plans a month in advance, gets RSVPs and researches a new dinner spot. Initially Cindy loved Joel’s spontaneous plans and Joel appreciated Cindy’s attention to detail; however after twenty years of marriage, their differences have become points of contention. I work with them to remember how they used to appreciate the differences, and then we create a structure to help contain the process. They start a family calendar so Joel can check to make sure Cindy doesn’t already have plans before he makes a suggestion. Cindy commits to not scheduling up all their free time and they both work on saying “yes” more than they say “no.”

We all have a tendency to lean more towards one style or the other, but it’s important to remember we need skill sets on both sides for a healthy, balanced life. This week surprise someone by “going to the other side!” I’d love to hear how it goes,, 303-258-7454, or find past articles on my website at

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