How many times do we map things out to complete various projects, accomplish goals, or begin a new lifestyle, and, bingo, things happen that force us to put those original plans on the back burner? Here’s a quote that’s certainly helping me lighten up and feel better. Can you relate to this?
“If Plan A fails, remember that the alphabet has 25 more letters.”
— from First for Busy Women, 10/1/12 edition.
The past year turned out much differently than expected for a whole lot of reasons. Fortunately there were many joyful events (including the recent birth of my 7th grandchild, so of course I was in Connecticut for nearly 3 weeks!). But there were also several unexpected challenges that caused me to put a lot of things on the back burner. As I reflect on this past year, I’ve learned a lot more about myself and how I react or respond to the unexpected. I’ve also watched myself turn from distress, self-blame and frustration, into a place of fertile growth, acceptance and peace (most of the time!).
Here are some thoughts and tips to help us through those times when things are not going the way we had planned.
1. Things Happen. No matter how well we map things out, understand that there are times when the unexpected happens.
2. What is Really Important? Sometimes we get so caught up in a project or a goal, and what appear to be “urgent” matters, that we can forget what’s really important. Think of some of those unexpected events you’ve experienced. A health issue (yours or someone else’s) can certainly cause everything else to be set aside, as can the death of a loved one (including a pet). There could be crises at work, at home, or with friends or relatives that become very important and require time-consuming energy and attention. Rearranging priorities is often a must; giving ourselves permission to let go of our original plan(s) can often alleviate a lot of stress.
3. Take Responsibility. In earlier stages of my life, it was very easy to blame others for what was going on in my life. But now I realize that I am the only one responsible for whatever is happening in my life—not necessarily for those unexpected events, but certainly for the way I perceive and handle them.
4. React or Respond? Many years ago a teacher of mine reminded me that “react” means to do something over again the same way—to re-act. Most of the time I now choose to “respond,” meaning I can instantly pause and seek a higher view of something as quickly as possible. So instead of lashing out in anger or internalizing deep hurt and upset, I can take a few deep breaths and respond in a healthier way, with a quicker resolution.
5. We Get to Decide. Whenever anything happens, we get to decide how we are going to react or respond. We can choose anger, frustration, and/or resentment. These all very natural ways to react to something, but they are also very “toxic” to our systems—emotionally, psychologically, physically, mentally, and spiritually—especially if we choose to hang on to them for any length of time.It takes practice, but we can choose to look at what’s happening from a different perspective and thus have a different response and a different experience.
6. What Are You Saying to Yourself? We can give ourselves a huge boost when we choose to change those words and thoughts that drag us down into those that lift us up. How draining it can be to keep saying, “I am never going to get this done,” or “What’s the matter with me?” or “Why can’t I handle this better?” Become more aware of what you say to yourself when things aren’t going the way you’d planned. Know that you can choose to change what you say. For example, “I will get this done when it is the right timing,” or “I am getting better at adjusting to the unexpected,” or “I am learning to handle things better.”
7. Learn to See Things from a Higher Place. It’s very easy to get caught up in the chaos and stress that the unexpected can create. It’s like being on the ground in an airplane and seeing so much happening all at once—fueling, flight check, food, baggage, ground and air traffic—and getting caught up in all the busy-ness. After take-off, we leave all this activity behind and begin to see the bigger picture—the patterns of the roadways and cities, the rivers and the mountains, and the vastness of the countryside and the sky. Ahhhh, much more peaceful. We can do this in our mind if we stop and take a couple of deep breaths. No matter what is going on, we can choose that higher view that brings us peace in any given moment.
8. Get Into Present Moment. This takes practice, practice, practice. However, the results can be quite remarkable because this is the best way to get to that “higher place.” It’s very easy (and human) to think about things in the Past (yesterday or years ago) with regrets and if-only’s. It’s also often easy (and human) to think about the Future with worries and fears. However, it is only in the Present moment that anything is done—this is where you can choose a different thought, action, perspective, or attitude that can set you on a different course.
Don’t let yesterday or tomorrow use up too much of today!
9. See the Opportunities for Growth. If something is challenging and throwing us off course, I believe there is always some good that can come out of it, even if we can’t see it at the time. My mother would often say, “Everything happens for a reason.” It took me awhile to get this, but it’s helped me through a lot over the years. Sometimes our greatest challenges create our greatest growth and give us an opportunity to recognize how strong and resilient we are. So when the unexpected happens, we can ask, “What is it I’m supposed to learn from this?” and then listen for the answers. Our wisdom increases and, at least some of the time, we are better able to cope with whatever comes our way.
Perhaps some of these thoughts and tips will help you along your journey, whether you’re working on Plan A, B, C or Z.
Peace and blessings to you always.