As a counselor, hypnotherapist, and the author of two books (Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift) that talk about why we ourselves plan, before birth, to experience great challenges in life, I am often asked, “How can we have free will if we plan our lives?” The answer is that free will and pre-birth planning mesh in an intricately woven tapestry.

To understand how they work together, let us take the example of someone—I will arbitrarily call this soul George—who has had many lives in which he made certain plans before birth, but then he deferred to the wishes of others, when in body. In other words, George desires before he is born to learn and grow in certain ways, but when on Earth, he tends to allow others to dictate how he lives his life. During the life review that occurs after each incarnation, George sees that he has this tendency and resolves to heal it. (Indeed, healing is one of the major reasons why we plan life challenges for ourselves.) George, therefore, plans at the soul level to carry back into the body the tendency to defer to the wishes of others — energetically.

Let us say that there is another soul in George’s soul group (a collection of souls who are at more or less the same evolutionary stage and who incarnate together repeatedly, playing every conceivable role for one another) who has precisely the opposite tendency. When she is in body, this soul, who I will arbitrarily call Sally, has a tendency to tell others what to do, imposing her will inappropriately on them. In her life reviews, Sally sees that she has this tendency and resolves to heal it. She, therefore, plans at the soul level to carry back into body energetically the tendency to dominate others.

George, who is aware of Sally’s plan, goes to her and says, “I see that you are carrying into body the tendency to dominate others for the purpose of healing it. I am carrying into body the tendency to defer to the wishes of others for the purpose of healing it. Let us plan to marry when I am thirty. Though we know this will likely be a turbulent marriage, our hope will be that I learn to stand up for myself, and that you learn to respect the wishes of others.” Seeing great wisdom in this plan and the potential for much spiritual growth, Sally joyously agrees. Typically, there is a feeling of joyous collaboration among souls, even when difficult challenges are being planned.

Now, let us say that when George is twenty-five, he takes a job with an employer who runs roughshod over him, treating him with a profound lack of respect and kindness. George marshals his internal resources and makes a stand. He tells his employer, “Stop. You may not treat me this way. If you want me to continue working here, you must treat me with respect and kindness.” In the moment George makes such a stand, there is a tremendous increase in his vibration. If he is able to maintain his increased vibration until he turns thirty, and if Sally does not raise her vibration to a similar degree, then by virtue of the Law of Attraction one of two things is likely to happen: either George and Sally never meet, or if they do meet, there is no attraction. In either case, the planned marriage never occurs; their dissimilar vibrations prevent them from coming together. (Sally’s soul would have taken this possibility into account in the pre-birth planning process and created a contingency plan. In that plan, Sally will meet another partner who will provide her with the opportunity to learn the desired lesson.)

This hypothetical story illustrates how pre-birth planning and free will intersect in the most elegant of ways. Here, George used his free will to learn the planned lesson (standing up for and being true to himself), thus obviating the need for the planned challenge of the difficult marriage.

Be very certain of this: You are the powerful creator of your life. You have the power within you to learn the lessons you planned. And you have the power within you to change your life.