Flexible vs. Rigid Planning

Not long ago, I played a game of Bananagrams for the first time. I’ve played Words with Friends before and I imagined this to be similar, with the only difference being that I was able to physically touch the tiles instead of it being virtual tiles on my phone.

During the game, I found it very difficult. Not because I wasn’t accustomed to the rules but because I was either being too rigid or too flexible.

First, let’s examine the rules of the game. Each player is assigned a certain number of tiles that are used to create chains of connecting words. The goal is to use all of your tiles with none remaining. The first person who is able to put all of their tiles to use announces “Pick!” and every player gains a new tile. Then you have to somehow utilize this new tile and incorporate it into your existing set.

What was difficult was that once I had a chain of letters that fit perfectly, I had a lot of difficulty incorporating the new tile. Should I destroy what I worked so hard to form and start anew to make new word combinations? Or should I wait until I get more tiles to form new words off of my current array? We played multiple rounds and I experimented with various methods.

Sometimes, one method would work and I would win the game. Other times, the same method wouldn’t work and I would struggle immensely. Being the competitive individual that I am, this led me to experiment if there is a surefire way to win the game and which method is the one I should stick to. As always, lessons we learn in one area of life can be applied to life in general as well.

Planning is ongoing

On vacations, I would make the mistake of assuming that things would always go according to plan. This is rarely the case and something would always come up: sudden rain, delayed flights, waking up late, constipation — you name it.

Some may come out of these experiences and say that planning isn’t needed after all! The plans always get ruined, so just wing everything! Though this works sometimes, I’d say that having a plan is better than not having one. However, just because we have one plan, it doesn’t mean the planning stops there. Planning is ongoing and we should always be prepared to come up with a backup plan, a backup plan for the backup plan, etc.

In Bananagrams, my initial plan might’ve been to use the letters G-O-O-D to spell “Good”, but after the introduction of a sudden “Z”, I might opt to spell “Zoo” and use the “G” and “D” for other things. And the introduction of a “V” later might change my plan completely again.

Have the flexibility to be inflexible

A popular buzzword amongst interviewees and students is “flexible”. We love being flexible and we love working with flexible people. Three words to describe myself? Organized, ambitious, and flexible. The type of employee we’re looking for? Someone who is driven and flexible. The high pedestal that we put flexibility on almost makes it seem as though inflexibility is a bad trait to have.

In Bananagrams, there was a time where I found myself with two ‘U’s and one ‘Q’. The letters that my peers urgently disposed ended up in my hands. I felt lost and hopeless — what do I do with these? Queen? I have no ‘N’ and what about the other ‘U’? Luckily, one word came to mind: “Queue”. But in order to do that, I needed to take an ‘E’ from another word I already made. It was beneficial for me to be flexible with using the remainder of the other word to create something else while I was inflexible and stern about keeping “Queue” in my array and not changing it.

There are many things in life that we can be flexible about, but there are also some things that we have to be inflexible about. For example, it may be a big deal for you to celebrate your dad’s birthday so regardless of the demand at work, you will still take that day off. Another example is if you are a vegetarian and are firm about sticking to your diet, regardless of what your peers are eating. We may pride ourselves on our flexibility, but there are certainly things that we are inflexible about. And that’s okay!

I am still not the best Bananagram player on the block after my thorough analysis of flexibility and inflexibility. However, I am more comfortable with balancing flexible and inflexible planning and code-switching between the two.

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