What Do You Do When Life Isn't Going as Planned?
The one thing that I know about life, is that it doesn't always go as planned. What you do about it is what makes you who you are. Amber Ivers
So…what do you do when things in your life aren't exactly going as planned? Who are you becoming when your life isn't going as planned?
- When your career isn't the career of your dreams?
- When you focus more on your career and personal growth, than you do your health and family?
- When you are unexpectedly laid-off and you do not know what to do?
Below is a recent experience to show how a small life occurrence can prepare and build us up for those more important moments in life that aren't going as planned.
My hope is through this simple example, which I believe mirrors life, I will provide you with insight of what to do when your life is not going as planned, as well as show you who you can become as a result of life not going as planned.
There's What You Planned…
Before setting off on a recent Saturday morning long run – 7.5 miles, I pulled out an iPhone and iPad app I use called Footpath. I use the app to plan my run routes. On this particular Saturday, the route was going to be one I had never run before. Since it was new, I reviewed the route a couple of times. Simple enough, right?
Then There's What Actually Happened
- Where I should have kept going straight, I turned right. Imagine my surprise when I found myself back on the same street where had turned right earlier. The dang-blasted street was a huge “U”!
- Continuing with the run, trying to correct the course, where I should have turned left, I turned right.
The run was getting interestingly messy. It took about three or four more wrong turns before I got back on track. Most certainly things were not going as planned. As I asked you earlier, when your plans or hopes are not going as planned, “What would you do?”
Finding Yourself In Your Messed up Plans
In a previous life, I would have been beyond pissed at myself for screwing up my plans. In the past I may have been all out of sorts, regardless if it were a run, something dealing with my career, or a family situation. That morning's snafu, however, reminded me of how I now react in the moments when life is not going as planned. If you have not yet gotten to this point in your life, put the following into practice:
1. Step outside of yourself to assess the mess, but don't fester in it. When we assess our situation in the same state that we were in as it happened, we risk missing out on the positives of what happened, why it happened, and how to change for the road ahead. Therefore, depending on the gravity of what happened, give yourself a little time, a day, a week, or a month, before you consider why things are not going as planned.
Also recognize that you don't gain anything from wallowing, so allow the next two suggestions to strengthen, challenge, and change you.
2. Take accountability and responsibility for your part in why life isn't going as planned. Using my run as an example, my old self would have agonized and berated myself over how stupid it was of me to get all twisted around like I did. That is how I would take responsibility for what I had done. Ok, I still do that because I was the only one responsible for my run mishap. However, I could have easily placed unreasonable blame on the following blame:
- The app did not show the name of the street where I first made the wrong turn. How was I supposed to know it was the same street as where I was supposed to turn further down the road?
- The developers of the neighborhood should have designed the neighborhood differently.
The new me considered how I got myself into the mess, took inventory of everything that happened before, during, and after the run, then focused on the following two suggestions.
3. Focus on what you learned, not the errant path. Stepping outside of yourself to assess what happened will teach you something. In a future post I will talk about what I call lesson deposits. For now, use your previous assessment to take note of what you learned about yourself, as well as anything of note that you can control. Repeat those last four words. That. YOU. Can. Control.
What did I learn on that run that I could control?:
- No matter how good I am at directions, I needed a longer review of the new route.
- Where I made that first wrong turn is on a street that is shaped like a really big “U”.
- New running paths.
4. Positives exist in every situation, look for them. Positive thinking and learning from missteps, mishaps, and mistakes work hand in hand. I separate them because we can learn something, yet harp on the negative. Don't dwell on the negative. Be truly positive about the path you are living, realizing what you have learned is already a positive.
Here are the positives I took away from my run that went amuck:
- Recall that I had planned to run 7.5 miles. Well, I ended up running 8 miles, helping me to burn extra calories.
- I like changing up my routes. Now I have more places to explore.
- My path may have been messy, much like life can sometimes be, but being able to share with you what to do when your life is not going as planned made it all worth it.
Now, What Do You Do When Life Isn't Going as Planned?
Remember, what matters is what you do and who you become as result. Using my run is a simple example of what we can do and of how we can grow when life isn't going as planned. Take those lessons from the small occurrences in life to prepare you for the bigger occurrences that challenge you in life.