Are you a planner, or an emergent?

However much you plan, you will always need a well-developed self to cope with emergenc(i)es.    Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

There are two ways to cope with the future.  One way is to alter your environment so that it conforms to a future which you can cope with.  Another way is to alter yourself so that you can adapt to any future.


Planners use the first strategy.  They are on a constant mission to change the people and things around them in order to make a manageable future.  Planners choose their friends for their consistency with their values; they secure their living quarters so as to ensure they will still be there next year; they timetable their development, so that their future conforms to a mapped-out course.

The big advantage of being a planner, is that you have a well-developed ‘home territory’.  As long as you are on that home territory, you will feel much safer.  However, there are a few things that go with the territory.  You may be more prejudiced against others who do not conform to your safe picture of the future.  You may miss philosophies which you haven’t thought of yet.  And your future life may be limited by the size of your imagination.


Emergents (or emergent strategists) use the second strategy – altering themselves to adapt to any future.  They are analogous to paramedics, who are trained and equipped to cope with a good range of emergencies.  Emergents do not tend to try to change the people and things around them.  They are more likely to accept friends who are inconsistent with their values.  They are more likely to live for the moment; and possibly less likely to rely on pre-drafted maps.

The big advantage of being an emergent, is that you have a well-developed ‘home self’.  You are like a walker who wears good boots, instead of changing all the paths to be more comfortable.  You will tend to be more tolerant of those who do not conform to your values.  You are curious about other philosophies, because you want to be ready for anything anyone might throw at you.  Life may seem more of an adventure, because less of it is prescribed by you.


There will be areas of your life more suitable for planning strategies.  For example, if you have a course of education to complete, then you may wish to timetable your work, so that you can manage the workload sensibly.  If you have children to look after, you may wish to provide stable accommodation to that they have a solid platform for their earlier development.

But there will also be areas of your life more suitable for emergent strategising.  For example, if you are encountering unavoidable suffering with an element of unpredictability, then you may wish to develop your mind so that you can handle that suffering without always having to change your environment.  ‘Stuff’ always comes up in life, and it is wise to build a ‘home self’ capable of accepting and using ‘stuff’ when it does come up.



There are two ways to cope with the future: firstly, by preparing your environment; and secondly, by preparing yourself.  The first way we might call a planning approach; the second, an emergent approach.

Planners may tend to have a ‘home territory’ bias.  They may be prejudiced against anyone or anything that does not conform to their map of the world and the future.  Emergents may tend to prefer to work on themselves, rather than alter their territory.  They may be more tolerant of difference, because they are less dependent, for their security, on making the outer world conform to their insides.

There is a balance to be struck.  Perhaps use your ‘inner planner’ for journeys which require more organisational stability; but perhaps use your ‘inner emergent’ to better handle the suffering that pervades existence.