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:
- 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.
- 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.
– – > 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?