What to do when things don’t go as planned

Whether or not you love planning, planning is always something that comes up in our lives as mothers.

Planning for the summer, planning for the school year, planning for yomim tovim, meal plans, planning errands.

Short-term planning, long-term planning.

And, in this pre-Pesach season - whether you’re planning to turn over this week, or planning to turn over on Leil Bedikah, plans feature a central role.

My prenatal clients and I do lots of brainstorming and planning about the newborn stage before their baby is even born.

But planning, as we know, doesn't always work out.

A kid gets sick. Baby is born early. Car breaks down. COVID hits.

And… then what? What happens to all your well-constructed plans?

Don’t toss the baby with the bathwater

When the unexpected hits, you may find yourself

And, the most common response is to scrap all of your plans.

Which, of course, is natural. See, we all function best with some level of routine, with knowing what to expect; it gives us a feeling of stability and control.

So when whatever you’ve expected is upended, it’s natural to feel out of control, and, in some way, unsafe.

But us because things didn’t quite pan out as planned, that doesn’t mean all of your planning was for nothing. And it also doesn’t mean that you need to scrap your plans entirely. 

So whether it’s a baby who wakes up sick in the middle of the night, or cleaning out the fridge taking you longer than you’ve planned, these three As will guide you in dealing with disrupted plans. 

A #1: Align

The first question to ask yourself is: what is my goal?

No just with this small plan, but what is my bigger goal. Who am I, and who do I want to be? Where am I heading?

Sound nuts when we’re talking about a small plan that goes awry? Well, not really.

The natural reactions that we all have when our plans are ruined only happen because all we’re doing is focusing on this one moment, this one piece, instead of seeing the bigger picture. It makes us narrower, contracted, restricted.

Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, your bigger goal, the real direction you’re heading in, allows you to expand, and make your decision from that place of expansion.

It allows you to be intentional about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, instead of just doing the first thing that your fear drives you to.

So before you do anything else when your plans fall through, align yourself with your bigger goals. 

A #2: Accept

Don’t brew and stew and wish that things were the way that you thought they would be.

Actually scratch that -- allow yourself the space to brew and stew and wish. Allow yourself to feel those feelings of discomfort SO THAT you can transition out of those feelings and come to a place of acceptance.

Accepting a situation will never truly happen if you try to chin up and force yourself to accept it. Acceptance - real acceptance - only happens from inside, from deeper work, from in your kishkes. 

And, in order to get there, you have to first go through the uncomfortable, icky stuff: the “no way, this isn’t happening” and the “this is so not fair!” and the “I’m just gonna try to band-aid it so I can keep things exactly the way they should have been.”

It might be helpful to talk it out, or write it out, or have a little cry.

And then, accept that this is the situation you have now. This is the situation that Hashem has custom-crafted for you, right now. It is the best possible thing that could possibly happen (I’m reminded of the story of the man who goes to his Rav with each turn of events and says, “isn’t this the BEST thing that could possibly happen?” or, conversely, “...the WORST thing...” -- you know that one?)

It may not be easy, but who said all good things are easy?

It is good.

And you’ve got this. 

So once you’re there, then you’re ready to...

A #3: Adapt

Your old plan doesn’t necessarily need to be completely scrapped, but it might need to be tweaked, or maybe even overhauled.

Refer back to A #1 and ask: where are you heading? And what was the smaller goal that you were aiming to accomplish with this plan?

And now: BRAINSTORM. Pen, paper, and toss out ideas (by yourself, or with someone else.) This might be a 30 second brainstorming session (for something smaller), or a 15 minute brainstorming session (for something bigger). But don’t discount the value of a good brainstorm: it’ll get your creative juices flowing, and open up your mind to ideas to resolve this unexpected non-panning-plan that will work best with your current situation.

And here’s something that’s good to keep in mind in general: The goal of planning to begin with is not to create a rigid structure that everything must fit into; the goal of planning is to have an idea of what to expect and to have a rough outline of how to best plug all the pieces together.

Especially when you have kids (but even when you don’t), don’t expect all your plans to work out exactly as you’ve envisioned -- there is, after all, a Master Planner whose Plans supercede yours (because they really are better!)

 

So do you feel better about your failed plans, now? Do you feel like you have a better picture of what to do when?

Tell me in the comments below which A resonated the most with you?

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