When life doesn’t go as planned,
maybe that was the plan?
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
I had my life planned out when I was 18. I was going to:
- Go to college at the University of Kansas and graduate with a degree in psychology
- Get married to my high school sweetheart at 25
- Have my first baby at 26 and the second baby at 28.
- By 30 I would be living in Colorado with my husband, two kids and have a successful psychology practice. I would be living in the house of my dreams and taking amazing family vacations every summer.
- CHECK! Go to college at the University of Kansas and graduate with a degree in psychology
- CHECK! Get married to my high school sweetheart at 25
X Have my first baby at 26 and the second baby at 28.
X By 30 I would be living in Colorado with my husband, two kids and have a successful psychology practice. I would be living in the house of my dreams and taking amazing family vacations every summer. (Well, I am living in Colorado)
Next week I am turning 42 and this is certainly not what I thought my life would look like in my early 40’s. I am divorced, struggling to find steady income, living in a rental and I do not have children. But guess what, I’m ok with where I’m at!
I’ve realized that if life hurts sometimes, you are probably doing it right.
I wasted a full year of whining and complaining about the way things “should” have gone. How this was not how my life was supposed to “end up”. But the truth is, yes it was. Because this is where I’m at right now.
Your life didn’t turn out how you planned. So what?! It’s time to write a new ending. Better yet, start with writing the next chapter because none of us know how our stories are going to end.
For those of you that are reading this thinking, “Well, my life is actually pretty perfect!” If your life IS going “basically” as you had planned, there is still a good chance that pieces of your life haven’t turned out as wanted.
It is ok to be upset that things didn’t go as we intended. It’s ok to get angry, be ashamed, be disappointed and to feel all the mixed emotions. Then, it’s time to move forward.
It is hard work adjusting, reframing, and reorganizing your life after you had it “figured out”. Rather than looking at restructuring as a huge chore, try viewing it as an exciting adventure into the unknown. An opportunity to redefine things in your life.
How to start revising your unexpected next chapter…
- Be accepting of where you are. You can’t rewind and you can’t fast-forward. THIS is where you are, right now. It doesn’t mean this is where you are going to stay, but today, this is where you are. If you don’t like where you are at, keep working on what’s next.
- Failure isn’t a bad F word. You haven’t failed, or maybe you have. Failure doesn’t mean you ARE a failure; failure can be viewed as growth. If you have failed at something, that is ok. Learn from it and move forward. Just because you fail at something, it doesn’t mean you have failed at life.
- Be open to new things. Maybe you lost your job during COVID-19 and now is the perfect time that you revisit that business idea you had years ago. You got a job offer in another state and now that you are single perhaps you accept it because you can move. Keep an open mind and be willing to shake things up a bit.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if you are accepting responsibility for the course change in your life, stop beating yourself up. Forgive yourself if you have done wrong by someone [even ask for forgiveness if that is a part of your healing journey]. Beating yourself up daily because things aren’t going as you planned only hurts you in the long run. Being kind during this journey includes being kind to yourself.
- Learn to trust. Trust is a hard one for many people after they have been hurt by someone or been disappointed that something in their life did not turn out as planned. Trusting yourself is the first step in being able to trust others. Trust that whatever choices you are making are a part of your process. You might make some choices that others wouldn’t agree with, but trust that right now the choices you are making are part of your process and will keep you propelling forward in a positive direction.
- Ask yourself what you learned. I accept responsibility for everything that has happened in my life, whether it was outwardly within my control or not. I cannot change anything that has happened in my past, but I can learn from it. Life presents us with challenges from time to time and you don’t always get to “choose” what happens. You do get to choose how you react. You can be bitter, or you can learn and grow from these experiences.
Rather than feeling victimized and blaming the external environment for how things have turned out, choosing to embrace the unforeseen can be empowering…scary, but empowering.
It’s good to remind yourself that even when you plan out your day, your week, your year or envision how your life 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.
Having plans and a direction for your life is great, but I encourage you to be adaptable, as things WILL happen that are out of your control. I urge you to go ahead and start writing that next chapter. However, I suggest not writing in pen, use a pencil so you can erase and edit along the way as life throws the unexpected your way.
Tweak it as much as you need to, it’s your “Life Recipe” book!
Remember, You Got This!
“Should” is a dangerous word! You sound a little bit like Byron Katie in “Loving What Is”. It is far better to accept and love our reality than play the “what if” and “should” game, but it is hard sometimes.
It certainly is hard to not throw a tantrum when things don’t go as planned, but just like a three year–you don’t usually get the result you want from kicking and screaming. And I love Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is”.