7 Lessons for When Life Doesn’t go to Plan

Wouldn’t it be great if life always went to plan. If you always made the right decisions, followed the right path, excelled in everything you put your mind to. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case…at least not all the time. Sometimes things won’t work out the way you want them to, you’ll have setbacks and disappointments and unexpected challenges.

I’ve recently experienced a big change in my life and it feels like I’ve been knocked off track. Everything suddenly seems confusing and scary and I’ve been left feeling insecure and grasping desperately for a secure foothold.

So how am I coping with this rather uncomfortable patch in my life? I’m embracing advice from as many sources as I can find: friends and family, self-help books, articles, videos…and I’m trying hard to implement them into my life in the hopes that they’ll help get me through this time.

1) Go with the flow

One of the greatest pieces of advice for coping with life’s unpredictability is to go with the flow. My dad is a professional when it comes to going with the flow. Instead of fighting against challenges in his life, he goes along with them and does the best he can to remain positive and mentally strong in the face of adversity.

I think it comes down to trying to accept what happens to you in your life rather than holding onto how it should have been, how it should have turned out. Letting go and seeing where life takes you is easier said than done but I think it’s got to be worth the effort of implementing if it means a more relaxing experience of life.

2) Let go of your expectations

What’s wrong with expectations in life? A lot, according to Susan Jeffers, author of Embracing Uncertainty. Expectations, she argues, create a need to control everything in life, take away our peace of mind, make us blind to exciting opportunities, make us feel insecure…the list goes on and on. In short, expectations turn us into control freaks as we obsess over the way it is supposed to be. A much healthier way to live, according to Jeffers, is to trust. Trust that things are happening perfectly and that there are opportunities for learning no matter what happens.

For me, this means trusting that I’ll be able to figure out a new path to follow, that I’ll figure out what needs to be figured out and then…go with the flow.

3) Be proactive

Trusting that things will turn out okay in the end doesn’t meant that you should sit back and wait for new opportunities to drop miraculously into your lap. I’m a big believer in always being proactive in life. This means doing your research, asking for advice from loved ones, trying new things, all the while trusting that things will work out for the best.

4) Embrace healthy distractions

During this unsettled period in my life, I’m doing my best to keep busy with healthy distractions: yoga, writing, watching feel-good movies, reading, long showers, socialising with friends. When you’re going through a rough patch, I think it’s especially important to look after yourself and fill your day with things that will keep you uplifted and emotionally strong.

5) Give yourself time to adjust

Richard Templar in his wonderful book Stop Thinking, Start Living talks about how to get through low moods. His advice is to do nothing! The more you think during the mood, trying to figure out what has caused your negative emotions and how to get rid of them, the longer you’ll be stuck in the mood. Negative moods, he explains, cloud our outlook and our judgement and make it difficult to see the positives. So when you’re going through a tough time, accept the way you feel and just trust that you’ll come out of your slump…eventually.

6) Keep perspective

It’s so easy when you’re feeling unhappy and insecure to lose perspective. Since being stuck in my own uncertain patch, I’ve found myself regularly indulging in self-pity, wondering despairingly why this had to happen to me.

Some much needed tough love from my dad reminded me that things weren’t as bad as I’d made out to myself. Yes, things hadn’t worked out the way I’d expected them to but I still have so much to be grateful for in life. So whenever I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, I try to step back and get some perspective.

7) Try and focus on the positives

It’s so easy when you’re going through a difficult patch to only focus on the negatives. I like to think of myself as a happy, positive person but I definitely fall into the trap of only looking at what’s wrong when something happens that I hadn’t planned for.

A good way to train your mind to focus on the positives instead, is to regularly write in a gratitude journal. Every morning and evening, write down a few things that you’re grateful for and after a while, it will become clear to you that even on your worst days, there is always something to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re in good health, or that you have a loving family and supportive friends, or that it’s a beautiful sunny morning, or that you had a good night’s sleep. Once you start looking, you’ll always be able to find something to lift your mood and remind yourself that life is wonderful…even when it doesn’t go quite as you planned.

– Tiger Lily –

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