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Women at Work: What do you do when plans go awry?

December 2, 2018

In 1998 I gave birth to my daughter Haley, and took a 12-week maternity leave. During that time, my cousin Elissa, lived with us during her pregnancy. Over those 12 weeks we watched two to four hours of “90210” daily, and enjoyed every single minute of it.

Since then, I have not been one who indulged in binge-watching an entire series on Netflix or Amazon or Roku, and quite frankly the thought of watching more than one episode at a time makes me feel guilty of wasting time. However, with the colder season upon us and ice cream sales not at their high point, I have turned to watching an episode or two of “Once Upon a Time” or “Gray’s Anatomy.”

This morning I was viewing another episode of “Gray’s,” and a young woman went into labor and delivered her baby on the elevator. As they set the baby on her chest, she somewhat wailed, “This is not how this was supposed to go. This was not part of the plan. This is not how it was supposed to be.”

Sound familiar?

In the past three months, right or wrong, I have found that I make fewer plans. It has been an advantage to not have plans because they don’t fall apart or change at the last minute. On the flip side, when I have been asked if my treatment plans include chemotherapy or what I will do after surgery, I am finding that the words “I don’t know” don’t sound all that intelligent either.

Maybe it’s time to go back to planning and learning what to do effectively when plans crash.

Our lives, personal and work life, are full of plans that go awry. People don’t get married planning to get divorced, people don’t start businesses planning to fail, people don’t start exercising and losing weight only to discover cancer. Occasionally even the best laid-out plans don’t go the way our imaginations wanted them to.

When that happens, it is our gut instinct to slump down, cradle your head in your hands and just cry. And that’s OK. Go ahead and cry it out, but then stand up like the superhero you are and move forward with the next best option. In fact, just the other day Lindsey, my 27-year-old, asked what my plans for this, that and the other thing were while I was recovering from surgery, and when I jokingly told her, “I’m not sure, maybe just cry a little,” she looked at me and said, “Well, that’s great and all, but it won’t fix a thing.”

Yes, when plans fall apart, it is a scary place to be. But, being capable of rolling with it and drafting new plans is the best way you can handle making the decisions you will need to make. Rather than allowing frustration and stress to take over, open your heart and mind; get going on the next best plan you come up with. Let go, roll with it and make the next step happen.

Letting yourself “roll with it” does not mean you need to sit down and create an entirely new plan on the fly. Simply sit down, take a minute and ask yourself, “what is the one thing I can do next that will move my original plan forward or move me closer to the objective I had in mind.”

Whether your plans were for your work life or personal life, if they were big, you may need help. Get the support you need from family, friends, colleagues or a mentor. Talking through original plans and thoughts for new plans will help get you where you need to go. Those people in your life will be your sounding board, and if they are good sounding boards, they will be honest in their ideas and opinions.

Lastly, sleep! Get a good night’s rest and don’t forget you are waking up to a new day that may be full of ideas better than those the day before.

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