In my experience, life rarely goes according to plan. At least not according to my plan. This isn’t because I’m unlucky, or life sucks, or any such nonsense- it happens because, well, I don’t control what happens in life, I only control what I do with my life.
It’s really not a problem when things don’t work out the way I thought they would as long as I let go of my attachment to the outcome and embrace whatever new opportunities are presented to me.
You see, where I get stuck- where most of us get stuck- is feeling as though things not working out the way we plan is a bad thing. We get stuck on our perception that life was supposed to work out one way or another. The key to a successful and happy life is to not get stuck in this moment, at least not for very long, and to look for opportunities in the setback and adjust our plan. Let me give you an example.
Last night I planned to sit down and write today’s blog post but my plan was thwarted by an area-wide internet outage. I thought about writing the post I had planned in a Word document but when I expanded my plans to include other possibilities I realized I really wanted to relax and enjoy the evening- and that’s exactly what I did. This choice to view the internet outage as an opportunity to do something different than I had planned got me thinking about other times a perceived setback wasn’t necessarily a setback at all.
Image credit Jason Tester/ Guerrilla Futures
Several years ago I had just started a great new job when I found out my company was being bought out by a much larger organization and my particular job no longer existed in the new organization. I felt discouraged, stressed, and anxious- as I think most people would- but as it turns out I wasn’t being laid off, I was being offered a different job within the new organization. I decided to embrace the opportunity and expand my skills and experience in this new role, even though it wasn’t a role I would have pursued otherwise.
I worked hard at my new role for 2 and 1/2 years until I realized I was suffering from job burnout. Instead of finding another high-pressure, full-time, corporate job, I decided to try working part-time. What an amazing opportunity to do something completely different than I’d done my entire career! This definitely wasn’t a setback, it was my time to fully embrace work-life balance and do more with my life.
As I thought about this topic more I realized there are opportunities to change my plan every day- like when the car in front of me is driving 10 miles under the speed limit and I choose to perceive at this common annoyance as an opportunity to slow down, take a deep breath, and think of one thing in my life I’m grateful for. For just a moment I stop focusing on where I’m going and focus on where I am right now. Thank you, slow driver, what a gift you’ve given me! Or perhaps it was a gift I gave to myself my simply adjusting my plan and finding the opportunity in the moment.
Now I’m feeling especially grateful for the internet outage last night that got me thinking about this idea. As I go about my day I’m going to look for opportunities to let go of what I had planned and make the most of whatever happens, and I invite you to do the same.