So I think we can forgive ourselves for behaving as if we know what is going to happen in the next minute! The trouble with this idea only comes when plans are made and then circumstances occur to thwart us in the delivery of the plans.
This is a hot topic for me at the moment because of my husband’ s recent diagnosis with cancer. Suddenly, the world as I knew it was challenged. Suddenly there were hospital appointments to fit in to my schedule, and my first reaction to him telling me he had to go to see the consultant on a
particular day was one of irritation. I almost feel embarrassed writing that here, but it was true – I didn’ t want him to go without me, but that meant a whole lot of changing appointments in my diary. And the truth of that was that I was irritated by it.
Of course, I did calm down a bit later on but this was my first reaction, and it was because I had a plan, and wanted to stick to it. I thought I knew how that particular day for me was going to be, it gave me some certainty, and I didn’ t want it tampered with! It’ s funny now, writing this, and reminds me of the joke about how to make God laugh – tell him your plans.
The real challenge is that when life delivers you unexpected offerings, whether in the form of a cancelled appointment, a letter with difficult news, or the bigger events such as the three D’ s of death, divorce and debt, how do you manage? Particularly, when you are self-employed or responsible for your own project of some kind, how do you continue without letting it detrimentally affect both the day to day happenings, and the bigger picture? When you get knocked off your track, when your business plan doesn’ t go according to the figures you put down, when suddenly lots of clients or customers cancel their appointments, just how do you cope?
Here’ s five of my favourite tips in these circumstances:
1 . Let yourself feel all the feelings without judgment, just observing. Easier said than done! But definitely easier if you understand the five stages of grief, namely, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If you know nothing about these, but are interested in exploring more, read Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ s book ‘ On Death and Dying’ – or Wikipedia have a good basic introduction. Remember that although this model refers to death, it can also be applied to loss of any kind. Knowing that your feelings are ‘ normal’ allows you to feel them without judgment.
2 . Catch your thoughts even more than you usually do. At times like these, when your plan is threatened, uncertainty and fear can easily raise their heads again. Going round and round in your head with gloom and doom thoughts about what might happen now, just does not help. Notice what you are saying and thinking and turn it around. For instance, if you catch yourself thinking’ Oh no. This is never going to work now’ , then turn it around to ‘ Despite apparent setbacks, I commit myself even more to this working’ , or just say to yourself, ‘ Ah. So it’ s not going to work this way. It must be going to work another way that I haven’ t thought of’ – the meaning behind this statement being that your project is still going to work.
3 . Remind yourself of some of the great names in history who persisted and persisted until they achieved their aim. For instance, did you know that Walt Disney ‘ failed’ with his first business? He started making cartoons, and due to various things, including pricing too low and a client going bankrupt and owing him money, he eventually had to declare bankruptcy himself. He returned home to California and set up again, still in cartoons, with his office being in his Uncle’ s garage. So if you are still working from your spare bedroom you’ re in good company! Proviso though: to make it out of your spare bedroom you do need to have a vision and an intention, plus help to take you there.
4 . Do The Five Minute Flip. This is for when you are worrying, or feel taken over by anxiety as a result of your plans going awry. Give yourself permission to REALLY feel your anxiety and worry for five whole minutes. No longer, no shorter (though when you really let yourself do this you might find it difficult to make the whole five minutes!). No censoring – really go for it. After five minutes, change your physical location and start to focus just as deliberately on positive things in your life, for at least five minutes – and longer if you can. By doing this you are acknowledging feelings, but not allowing them to take you over, and then affirming the positive in your life.
5 . Be kind and tender with yourself. Take time out, even though it might be the last thing you feel like doing, as often one of the first reactions to things not going according to plan is to start ‘ doing’ immediately. And sometimes, even any kind of ‘ doing’ will do! But it’ s at this point that ‘ not doing’ , and instead just being (in stillness, nature, with a friend) might meet your needs more than the activity. So if you can, check in with yourself and find out what you really feel would nurture you. You can come back to amending your plan, or adjusting your schedule, or seeing new possibilities later on.