Seven months ago I left my job as the director of an STD and Teen pregnancy prevention program to strike out on my own as a speaker and writer.
Here was my plan:
Build a blog: Check
Write regularly, even if the only audience is your own mother: Check
Sign-up for and go crazy on every social media outlet known to man: Check
Publish my first book for parents: In Process
Take one full year to build up this new job, then start family:
That’s when God fell on the floor laughing.
The start of a new year brings plans for your career, your family, your relationships, and your future. That’s a good thing! We need to be intentional if we want to have successful relationships, date well, marry great men and women, thrive in careers, and live the life we’ve imagined.
But life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Here are three tips for how to deal the next time your best laid schemes go awry (to paraphrase Robert Burn):
1. Be present in what you’re feeling. For a moment.
A relationship you thought would last forever comes to a heartbreaking end.
You suddenly find yourself dating someone when you had carefully planned that out for next year in your Life Plan.
Perhaps you think this will be the year when you finally, finally,meet a girl who measures up, or that you’ll get asked out by that guy you’ve been flirting with for the past 4 months. Yet month after month goes by and….nothing.
When plans don’t materialize like we had hoped, it can bring feelings of loss, sadness, pain, or disappointment. Rather than shrug those off or try to ignore them, acknowledge what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that, and allow yourself some time to grieve the loss of unmet expectations, a broken heart, or a failed relationships.
Then move forward. Do not wallow in pity, or allow sadness over failed plans to cause you to stagnate.
2. Press into the change.
When unexpected change comes, you might be tempted to dig in your heels and force life to take you through kicking and screaming. That’s often my initial reaction.
Without change however, we won’t keep growing and life would fail to move forward.
Rather than run from the change, run towards it.
Shift your perspective from viewing yourself as a victim to seeing the positive in this new direction. If possible, read up and learn about the possibilities this change might bring, whether it’s a new city, new relationship status, or in my case, a new baby. By embracing and choosing to push into the unexpected plans, we diminish the fear and uncertainty that might normally cause us to shrink back.
3. Keep the bigger picture in mind.
When your plans fall apart or don’t materialize, it can feel as if your world has been completely upended.
Take a moment to reflect on time in the past when life hasn’t quite gone like you planned. Did that change end up being as life-altering as you imagined it would be in the moment? Did you recover from the relationship only to realize it’s a good thing it’s over? Or can you now be grateful you didn’t end up dating that person who at the time seemed to Mr or Ms Right?
Perhaps only now do you realize it was actually a seemingly insignificant detail that turned out to be life-changing and the big catastrophe of the moment….a minor bump in the road.
Hindsight is 20/20.
This year, allow yourself to be surprised by the unexpected.
Be open to new relationships, journeys you did not plan, and growth in the form of disappointment. It is all part of shaping the life that is uniquely yours, the story that no one else can tell as well as you. It is a story that will inspire others, that will draw them in, and enrich their lives in the way theirs will enrich yours.
Whatever the upended plan, if you’re still alive, have friends or family you can call, and a package of Ramen in the cupboard, you’re going to be okay.
What unexpected changes have you faced and how did you respond?