Not According to Plan

The Twisty Path. What to do when things don’t go according to plan

I heard a great story that shed perspective on what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

A young woman had experienced several strokes over a period of months, and the medical professionals didn’t know why. A test had been scheduled for a Friday morning, and hopes were high that this would finally provide answers. Unfortunately, the test had to be cancelled at the last minute due to equipment trouble. As you can imagine, the patient and her family were very disappointed. They had a plan, but it fell apart.

With some effort, they were able to reschedule the test for Sunday. At this time, the doctor observed two interesting things:

  1. The patient had suffered another mini-stroke on the intervening Saturday. Had she had the test at the scheduled time, the results would have been inconclusive.
  2. Somehow, the originally scheduled test was not what she needed, and had she gone through with the initial plan, she would have had the wrong test.

Due to both the timing and proper test, the medical professionals now had a clearer idea of what was going on. In other words, Plan B ended up being a success, whereas Plan A would have been a failure.

As a Professional Organizer and Productivity Coach, I love a plan. I like detailed lists, timetables, and getting ahead on tasks and responsibilities. Nonetheless, it is a fact of life that plans don’t always work out. When the day crumbles, the meeting falls apart, or we get sidetracked from our list, it is human nature to want to toss up our hands in surrender. However, this story reveals a few truths that can be helpful to keep in mind:

– – > Interrupted plans are discouraging and frustrating

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the jolt of the shattered plan. Especially when great care has been taken to put something together, watching it crumble knocks us off balance.

– – > Plans that seem good may be flawed or suboptimal

Good intentions don’t guarantee success. Recognizing that even well laid plans can be imperfect is a comfort when things go wrong. A detour may take us off our planned route, but it is preferable to driving onto a ripped up bridge.

– – > Pursuing alternatives keeps us moving forward

It is tempting to allow disruptions to completely derail us. We want to complain and vent and sulk. Unfortunately, wallowing typically makes things worse. A better course is to pause, take a breath, and consider all the options given the new situation.

Just shout "plot twist"

– – > Altered plans periodically result in unanticipated benefits

Some of life’s best experiences and outcomes stem from unintended developments.

… a traffic jam causes a man to be just late enough to avoid a multi-car pile up 

… a last minute need to change clothing from a spill keeps a woman in her house long enough to receive an urgent phone call 

… a young man’s battle with cancer knocks him off his intended career path and onto a better one

*     *     *     *     *

Admittedly, not all interrupted plans have happy endings. Often, they are just a hassle that requires time, energy, and patience. Nevertheless, being open to new possibilities increases the odds of finding a positive path to our desired destination.

How do you react when life throws a wrench in your plans? Have you ever experienced a change of plans that worked out surprisingly well?

33 thoughts on “Not According to Plan”

  1. One time I missed my train and didn’t feel like waiting for the next one, so I took a bus and the subway instead. On the subway, I ran into someone whose family had the cottage next to mine while were growing up. We hadn’t seen each other in several years. We went out for lunch together a short time later, but sadly, we neglected to stay in touch after that.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…6 Ways to Make Your Twitter Updates More CreativeMy Profile

    1. What a nice example of an unexpected benefit of altered plans. Thanks for sharing, Janet. That is exactly the kind of serendipitous upside that we might experience when plans change.

  2. What great reminders about keeping things in perspective! Since becoming a parent it seems inevitable that things will not go as planned! On a daily basis my agenda is derailed. Thanks for the validation and encouragement. 😀

    1. I remember that being one of my first lessons of parenthood – and it was actually a tough one for me. I was used to being in control, and I quickly learned that this was no longer going to be the case. In hindsight, I’m glad I had this experience, though, because I have learned to yield more and at least try to go with the flow.

  3. This is a great example of going with the flow. No matter how much planning we do, we will never know how things will turn out. I prefer to just have a goal and if it turns out great. But if it changes, I am OK with that too. It’s a great reminder for everyone to not be so hard on ourselves if something doesn’t go as planned.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Tips to help your parents downsize their stuffMy Profile

    1. Exactly, Sabrina! Often we are quick to hold ourselves accountable to the “original” plan, and condemning ourselves if we don’t get everything accomplished. Hopefully this will be a bit freeing.. life changes our plans. We just need to follow that twisty path and do the best we can:)

  4. Your post is on point Seana! There have been times I’ve gotten frustrated at a plan gone awry – getting out of the house late, having to go a different route, etc – when the Holy Spirit will let me know I avoided something that could have been tragic. My husband always preaches to us, lol…if it’s not coming together, don’t make it happen, and don’t force it. And yes, her plan B definitely saved her a lot of headaches and possibly her life. Thanks for the reminder to just, “let it flow.” 🙂
    Michell recently posted…Finally!My Profile

    1. I love what your husband preaches. We tend to want to force life’s details into our plan, but sometimes there is a better way. God’s hand can direct us in a way that is better than we can imagine. Staying “open” to what develops can be the best way to react.

  5. Love this post! I have come to realize that with age comes perspective. While I may have been more quick to rush in and feel that as a powerful positive, I now with age know the wisdom that things tend to work out with time. This post is reassuring in that truly Plan B can be the best plan!

    1. I do think getting older makes this perspective easier, and therefore I try to help my younger clients and followers to be open to the twists and bends. Often, the message is that there is “one right way” to achieve success. Not only are there multiple ways, there are also many different definitions of success. Good skills and habits are wonderful tools to cultivate, but so is a nimbleness and a willingness to flex.

  6. My family is dealing with a medical “foul up” much like the example. I’m praying that the pointless delay is meant to be and will result in a positive outcome. Thank you for the insight and encouragement, Seana.

    1. I hope so too, Susan. I find that the medical establishment is getting tougher and tougher to navigate, and often leaves the patient & family feeling powerless. I hope your family gets a clear diagnosis, treatment plan, and path to healing!

    1. Yes, that very event came to mind as I was writing. I live outside NYC and heard many of those stories personally. It is still difficult- especially in the moment- to see upheaval as a potential positive. But a bit of perspective and calming self-talk can help quell the adrenaline and maybe alleviate an otherwise stressful moment.

  7. I believe that God puts you where you need to be when you need to be there – his plan, not yours. While I don’t understand why he took my father 7 years ago, I do know he put me there to hear some very special words from my Dad that may have been left unsaid otherwise. They sustain me to this very day.
    Andi Willis recently posted…10 Things About Me: Glad to Meet YouMy Profile

    1. I agree, Andi. God’s hand is at work, though we don’t always understand how or why. So thankful you had those last few precious moments with your Dad, although sorry that you lost him so early. Being open to the small blessings can be our best response during troubling times.

  8. I think it happens a lot, although on a smaller scale. I remember my perfect plan at my first job out of college going down the toilet when I was moved against my will to a new position without just a few months on the job.
    Well that’s how I met my husband! He was a client for me at the new position.
    Tamara recently posted…Ten Reasons You’ll LOVE Blogger Bash: GiveawayMy Profile

    1. It can happen in big ways or small ways. That’s a great story, Tamara. Your children will cherish the serendipity of knowing that is how their parents came together. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Yep, we’ve had that kind of a week. Our AC went out in a power outage that also killed my beloved TiVo and two days later my husband’s cell phone died. After 5 days of no AC in record heat, I was getting a little worn down, but I always believe that things happen for a reason and it somehow all turns out for the best. And now I’m sitting in a nice cool house, having paid about 10% of what we thought we’d have to pay and I’m watching the DNC on my TiVo and back to having my husband text me umpteen times per day. Life is good and we have to just believe these little bumps in the road will work out. PS: Your Pinterest boards look fabulous!
    Adrian G recently posted…What Do We OWE Our Adult Children?My Profile

    1. No fun being without AC during the heatwave! That’s when you really need it most – SO glad it ended up being less than you thought to get it fixed, because I know that can be a very big ticket. You never know, maybe that break was from the technology was a blessing in disguise. Inconvenient for sure, though. I’m repeatedly amazed at how dependent upon technology we have become! THANK YOU for your help with my Pinterest boards. Still room for improvement, but getting there:) Have a great weekend, Adrian!

  10. This post is definitely relevant to travel as well! So many people have put a lot of time into planning a trip and something goes wrong that makes them have to change something (cancelled flight, misplaced reservation, flat tire, injury). Always great to have a Plan B and just to roll with the changes and make the most of it, as something great can still come out of it!
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted…Planning a Day in Alexandria EgyptMy Profile

    1. I’ve definitely had vacations/travel experiences where I have been shoved off of Plan A and ended up somewhere else. As often as not, in hindsight, these diversions have taken me into memorable experiences and good times. Being flexible when traveling is a MUST!

  11. Well thank you for writing this! I’m so much of a planner. I used to get so, so upset when my plans don’t go as I wish. But I have come to think that no matter how perfectly we plan things, there are always going to be detours. So you’re right, the key is to keep an open mind. There were several times when I had to change plans and truly got so happy about it!

    1. I am a big planner as well, so this has actually been a bit of a big lesson for me personally. I try hard now to be open to what may be around the corner. It isn’t easy, but the more I can stay positive, the better I seem to experience the ups and downs!

    1. It can at least be a comforting mantra to keep repeating when everything seems to be falling apart. Sometimes it is the ruined plans that end up becoming the best family stories!

  12. Many years ago, my husband and I had our camping plans rained out. Instead, we visited my Aunt and Uncle. We enjoyed several days with them and collected some family stories that we still share to this day. A small example. Thanks for the great post.

    1. That’s a lovely story, Maureen. Isn’t it funny how things work out? A meaningful visit with family sounds like much more fun that camping in the rain to me. I’ve had many a vacation mishap, most of which we look back on and laugh about now!

  13. Pingback: What Are You Choosing? | The Seana Method Organizing & Productivity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.