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When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan


Two people reviewing planning documents

How frustrating it can be when life doesn’t go according to our plans, expectations, or hopes. The question is: How will we respond when life goes sideways?


We may not realize it in the moment, but we always have two choices: 1) allow our emotions to take over and spin us completely out of control, potentially creating more problems, or 2) manage our difficult emotions.


Let me share a recent personal example. While preparing for an upcoming presentation, I discovered to my horror that the computer file containing needed essential information had “disappeared” in the recent transfer of files from an old to new computer. They were simply gone. My immediate reaction was “oh no!!!” My heart sank, and I felt a punch to the gut. My thoughts were spinning as panic began to rise within me. “What am I going to do?” And then, I remembered what I needed to do first. Calm down!!


Don’t you hate that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and someone tells you to “calm down”? The reason we don’t like it is because we don’t know how to calm down at that moment. So, here’s a 3 step process that works amazingly well for me almost every single time life goes sideways.


Step 1: Accept What Is True in the Moment


First thing I tell myself are three important words: “Can’t change it.” Why these three words? Because we need to accept the reality of “what is” in that moment. Resisting the truth makes getting to the solution harder and amplifies out of control feelings.


Step 2: Take Five Minutes to Yourself


Second, “take 5. In other words, take about 5 minutes to consider the situation or “your story,” feel the feelings, and take some deep breaths to settle down your brain and heart.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings by identifying and naming them. Consider which of the following eight core difficult emotions you are experiencing: anger, disappointment, embarrassment, frustration, helplessness, sadness, shame, and vulnerability. Naming your emotion allows you to step out of your story momentarily.


Step 3: Give Yourself Grace and Compassion


Third, put your hand over your heart as a sign of self-compassion and take some slow, deep breaths. Be kind to yourself and remember that life is challenging and lots of people in the world are encountering something challenging, just like you are. It’s OK to feel what you’re feeling. Think about what is going well in your life. Rarely is everything terrible. There is always something to be grateful for.

 

Interestingly, following the above steps led me to think of three people to contact who could help me replace most of what was lost from my computer. Even though it was still frustrating and disappointing to not have immediate access to what I needed, within an hour I had what I needed.


It’s important to remember when life goes sideways, you have more control than you may realize. This simple strategy works to restore your peace in the midst of life’s struggles.


For daily inspiration and helpful tips, join my free FB group, Abundant Mindset with Dr. Richelle.

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