Life Doesn’t Always Go As Planned….Or Does It?
A few years ago, I was attending a non-profit fundraising event where Willie Nelson was scheduled to close out the evening with an intimate concert for a crowd of 400. A cool summer evening that began with cocktails, a fun silent auction, and an amazing dinner. As the program was concluding and everyone was preparing for Willie to take the stage, the host of the evening appeared on the stage and announced that Willie Nelson had fallen ill and would not be performing that evening.
You could hear the groans and the disappointment in the crowd, one man even yelled, “This has to be a joke, right?” Well, it was no joke, indeed Willie Nelson had gotten altitude sickness and would not be performing. I was certainly disappointed, along with the rest of the crowd. However, my disappointment quickly dissipated as I realized that Willie Nelson couldn’t control that fact that he got sick.
“On The Road Again…”
Awkward silence began to fill the room, five minutes passed before the event planner appeared on stage to announce that she had just got off the phone with a local country band who would be arriving in less than an hour to take the stage. She apologized to the crowd for the last-minute change, acknowledged everyone’s disappointment, but reminded the crowd that the real reason they were there was to support the cause of the organization; although we would not be hearing Willie sing, “On The Road Again”, we would still have a great party with great music.
As an event planner myself, I have been faced with many unexpected circumstances that occur during an event because no matter how diligently you plan, an event never goes off without “something” (even small) not going as planned. You must be flexible, do your best to have a backup plan, and when you don’t have a backup plan prepared, figure one out.
LIFE is so much like an event, it never goes 100% as planned, or does it? Why is it we can be forgiving when an “insignificant” event in life doesn’t go as planned? We might fret for a moment but then most of the time figure out a way to adjust and move forward. Yet when our lives don’t go as planned, we kick and scream rather than having a contingency plan?
Planning is an essential part of life. Most of us plan our days, we plan our weeks, even our entire year. We plan vacations and we plan big events in our lives. But what happens when:
- Day: You have a meeting at the office at 9:00 A.M. 8:30 you get a flat tire.
- Vacation: The activities you had planned were outside, now the weather is calling for a week of thunderstorms?
- Event: You were planning on walking with your friends at graduation in 2020 and then there is a global pandemic.
Life never goes as planned. Or, maybe it does…maybe, it just doesn’t go the way WE had it planned.
Creating plans in life create expectations. Expectations that can leave us feeling fulfilled and accomplished or completely broken. I am a planner by nature and I’m certainly not saying that we just throw the planning out the window and don’t have expectations. However, learning to be more flexible and forgiving when life decides to veer from “our plan” can save us a lot of frustration, pain and sometimes heartache.
4 things to consider when life—well, just happens and you realize you don’t have as much control as you thought.
- Life changes, whether we want it to or not
Change is inevitable and many times we do not plan for things to change the way they do. If we think that by standing still, we are going to have more control, we are in fact going backwards because the world is always changing around us. You might not be living the life you have planned, but if you only focus on the fact that you aren’t living the life you had planned, you are missing out on the life that you are actually living. Instead of focusing so much on the things that don’t go “as planned” try to embrace something in the “new plan” that is positive.
- It’s ok to say no
Even though life might be forcing you to take a left at the fork in the road when you wanted to go right, it’s still ok to say no to the people that want you to go left when you want to go right. “No” is one of the hardest words to say for many people. Many of us are people pleasers, afraid of confrontation, fear rejection or fear the ramifications of saying “no”. I am certainly not insinuating that you should always say “no”. However, when we never say “no” we become enablers, we lose focus on our genuine needs and we become unavailable to say yes to important things in our lives. There needs to be a healthy balance. You are the person that is affected the most by the decisions you make. Don’t say yes at the expense of your own happiness, values or mental and physical health. Life keeps moving forward, whether you say “yes” or “no”.
- Let go of control, just a little
You cannot control life, but you can choose how to respond. [Fill in the blank] in life didn’t happen TO YOU, you are happening in life. So, your life didn’t turn out how you had planned, ok so write a new ending. Better yet, don’t write the ending because there is a good probability that the new ending won’t go as planned either. How about you just try writing one chapter at a time, keep the story going, but leave a few pages blank because you don’t know exactly what is going to happen next.
- Staying strong also means staying soft
Something that everyone told me from the day I got separated is “This will only make you stronger”. Many quotes I have read state that people who have struggled, suffered or have had to rebuild after being broken are the strongest. I do believe that there are some people who are amazingly resilient who haven’t gone through hell, but I also believe that that people who have survived difficulties in life create some sort of strength within them that keeps moving them forward. However, I don’t want strength to mean that I have become hardened, emotionless and dead inside or to surround myself with a metaphorical wall to protect myself form getting hurt. It takes tremendous strength to navigate the curve balls that life throws at you and to not let “getting strong” harden you. But you can be strong and still have empathy, still be kind, still be vulnerable and still be soft.
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. What is soft is strong.” – Lao Tzu
In January of 2020, many people online were tweeting or posting “2020, this is my year!” Over a million people hashtagged on Instagram #newyearnewme. And then LIFE had a different plan for 2020, enter COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 has put a wrench in basically everyone’s life, all each of us can do every day is our best and trust that life is turning out as it should…global pandemic and all. That of course can be incredibly challenging, especially coming from a notoriously impatient event planner who has been through a myriad of ups and downs in life. But if I can do it, I have confidence you can to.
The fundraiser that was to feature Willie Nelson certainly didn’t go as planned. However, it ended up grossing more that year than the event did the previous year. Although there was some disappointment because of the expectation of the evening, the night went on and the crowd realized they were there more for the cause of the organization than to see Willie Nelson perform.
It’s good to remind yourself that even when you plan out your day, your week, your year or envision how your future will look, the universe may decide otherwise. How you choose to respond to it is what really matters. Life doesn’t always go as we plan it, but life happens the way it’s supposed to.
Remember, You Got This!