Life Interrupted: What To Do When Things Don’t Go As Planned

If you want to make God laugh, make plans. I don’t know when I first heard that or who said it, but I sure do agree with it these days. It’s hard to remember the last time I had a day go even close to what I had planned. And believe me, I am a planner.

From to-do lists, to calendars, action plans, marketing plans, business plans, project plans…I love my lists. Give me a goal, and I can break it down for you step by step with tasks and deadlines. In fact, I can remember doing that in high school, scheduling my life in 15 minute increments in my day planner. I remember my sophomore English teacher being quite impressed by it. And it was fairly easy to manage when all I had on my plate was high school, a part-time retail job, and my family.

But somewhere along the way, life got a bit more complicated. Enter college, a full-time job, and part-time jobs on top of it, boyfriends, graduation, more jobs, a marriage, a baby, a divorce, graduate school, re-careering, etc. The lists got longer and the days got shorter.

What I’ve learned is that while planning may be an important (and helpful) part of life, there must also be space for other things that come up. Because there’s no way to plan for everything, every situation, every scenario. Once I started to adopt this new way of thinking, I realized it wasn’t the planning that had helped me all along as much as it was the feeling of being in control and prepared.

How to be in Control…First I must say that control is an illusion. We want control when we think we don’t have it. And the thought of being out of control can drive otherwise rational, sane people over the edge. Control is really about having our expectations met. It’s a nice thing, but not always going to happen. The only thing we really have control over is ourselves – our thoughts and behaviors. Most of the time, it seems to me that people who talk about control are upset because people around them aren’t meeting their expectations. That’s not a fun situation, but it happens…all the time. The more we can realize and accept that we cannot control others (whether our kids, spouses, partners, friends, bosses, etc.), and that we can only control ourselves, the easier things seem to get.

How to be Prepared…Being prepared is an entirely different animal. It is possible to be prepared for any situation that comes your way. How, you ask? By trusting yourself. Trust that you can handle whatever life throws at you. Trust that you will make the best decision you can with what resources you have at your disposal. Trust that you (or someone you know) can help you find answers and solutions. And trust that everything will be okay, regardless of how it turns out.

I planned to get some work done yesterday, but instead was faced with an intense family situation that stirred up a lot of emotions. I rearranged my planned schedule. I trusted myself to know what was best for me. I allowed myself space and time to feel, vent, breathe, and then get a bare minimum of work done.

Remember life happens in spite of your plans. How will you handle the next interruption?

Photo: Stop Hammertime © by Rich Anderson

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