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That Didn’t Go As Planned

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Negative emotions arise easily when life doesn’t go as planned.  What makes it even worse is when you’ve done your homework, thought through potential roadblocks, and prepared the team, family, and friends by sharing expectations, things can still go very wrong. When this happens it evokes senses of failure, disappointment, and regret.

There is another way to look at life when things don’t go as planned.  One that doesn’t trigger your stress response and keep you from experiencing all those negative emotions.  Do these four steps and start enjoying the spontaneous opportunities life brings to you.

  1. Plan for them to not go as planned.

What triggers your stress response is your limited capacity to navigate the situation(s) you’re going through.  When you have lots of tools in your toolbox your stress response isn’t triggered, or at least not as much, because you can rely on a tool to get you through.  In all aspects of life (vacations, work, family, money planning, sports) it’s important to dot your i’s and cross your t’s AND plan for it not to go well.  Follow these tips and add these tools:


When something unexpected comes up in your plans, document it right away. You can write a note and add it to your vacation folder, create a Note on your phone so you can reference it later, use your calendar to mark it down, or update actual documents so it becomes a permanent part of your tasks later.

Pre-work not Re-work

Give yourself more time during the planning process to focus on Plan B material. It’s about asking yourself questions like, “Is this going correctly?” or “How can I make this work ideally?” and “What is my first step if things go south?” Be sure to know, “Who is my lifeline if I need help?” and “What role do my team, family, and friends play to aid in this process?” Spending time doing the pre-work is much easier than unraveling the re-work.

Check as you go

Double and triple check everything as you go through your plan. It’s easier so course correct when you notice you’re a little caddywhompus than completely off the rails.


Have an alternative action to counterbalance the main steps of your plan. Say to yourself, “If not this, than this,” until you’ve covered all your bases. If the main steps are covered along the way and you do experience some turbulent situations, you will always know exactly where you’ll be able to get back on track.

  1. Over communicate.

Too often as the planner- think wife, owner, doctor, manager, leader, professional- you keep all the steps to the plan in your head.  You horde the information because you think you’re the only one that can execute; you’re the one that attended the meeting, read the information, researched it online, got the training. WARNING: This is a GAIL.  You may know the steps on how to complete a procedure (doing the laundry) but that’s not the only piece to consider.  Partner with your team, family, and friends as they too have experiences to draw from.

Bring your them into the fold, into your head, and make them part of the process by:

  • Ask them what they see from their perspective.
  • Encourage them to visualize the whole process and what steps they see people taking.
  • Gather them in one room to draw out a picture.
  • Build a model.

Your tribe is skilled at what they do just as you are skilled at what you do.  They see things differently than you, see things you don’t, and see how things can go south in different ways.  This is all GOOD news.  They are your compliment and can fill in the gaps to complete the entire experience.

  1. Rehearse!

One of the biggest reasons why things don’t go as planned is due to the lack of rehearsing you do. Yes, rehearsing, role playing, run-throughs, enactments, call it what you want. It’s the time you take to rehearse BEFORE you go live.

The best time to rehearse is during quiet times and when people aren’t rushed for time. Starting from the top is encouraged because when you feel comfortable in the beginning the rest typically falls into place.  Do it over and over rehearsing different situations, switching up steps and outcomes, especially those outcomes where it doesn’t go as planned.  You all get to rehearse what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, what will need to be resolved, how to talk through challenges and  when things don’t go as planned. Above all, give yourself permission to mess up.

  1. Choose wisely.

Science proves that what we tell ourselves we believe.  The amazing thing about that is we get to choose what we tell ourselves.  Stop reading just for a moment and really take that in.  That statement right there is truly the superpower all humans have. When things don’t go as planned, be aware of what you tell yourself:

Don’t say~

That was terrible.  I’ll never do that again.

I let that person down.  I’m not ready for this.

It’s all my fault and now my family had a terrible experience.

Why did I even try that?  I should know better!

DO say~

That was a learning experience.  When I do that again I will definitely do it differently.

I’m going to call that person and let them know this is not an indication of how we do things.  We will be ready for them next time.

My family didn’t receive the kind of experience I want them to have.  What can I do so this doesn’t happen next time?

There are always learning moments during growth and this is one of them.  Now I know better so I will do better.

My skill level in this area isn’t what I’d like it to be so I’m going to do X, Y, Z to change that.

If life just went as planned it would be pretty boring. Missteps, mishaps, mistakes, and misbehaviors are what propels us to learn, grow, change, adapt, and challenge our current way of being.  When things don’t go as planned they are a gift and an opportunity.  Tell yourself that.

Key Takeaways

There are four ways to combat negative feelings when plans fail; plan for them not to go as planned, over communicate, rehearse, and choose wisely.

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