The Unexpected and Plans Are Strange Bedfellows

Over the last two weeks, how many moments have you had where you were like, “Wow…this is not what I planned for?” Oof… For many of us, the plans we made in January or February have gone completely out the window. Poof!

My good friend, Charlie Gilkey, has a great saying for moments like this: “Planning is an awareness generating process.” It’s probably not the reminder you want right about now, but it is perfect for a time such as this.

Because while the magnitude of this global health and financial crisis is huge, the truth is that your plans get interrupted all the time. Sure, it’s much easier to accept under the best of circumstances and when it isn’t thrust upon you, but “easier” doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

Your world has been knocked off its axis.

Maybe you’re still in shock and are not yet ready to make any moves. Or, maybe you’re still in shock but you’re ready to work on regaining your footing. Whether you’re ready to adjust and tweak your plan now or at some point in the future, I have some ideas to help you.

But first, let’s not skip over what I describe as the “not so obvious reasons” why this feels so darn hard.

The Thing About Plans

As you may know, I’m a fan of plans on paper. I’ve never met a mind map I didn’t like. 🙂 Yet, even if you’re a “plan in your head” type of person, what I’m about to say applies: There are some things about plans that make any disruption to them hard to embrace.

For starters, plans are specific. The plans you made – before the new year, in January, or after – are an amalgamation of your goals and the game-plan to make them happen.

Built into your plans are your expectations. Your plans reflect your vision, hopes, dreams and the things you want to change.

Your plans require energy and resources. Regardless of when you started implementing your plan, you’ve been investing time, money and attention. Therefore, your plans have an emotional element built into them.

Not to mention how your plans are very much connected to your identity.

So, when your plans get interrupted or derailed entirely, especially by a crisis completely out of your control, it’s natural that you…

  • may lose trust in your vision;
  • may lose heart and motivation;
  • may feel frustrated that the reality is not aligned with what you had envisioned; and 
  • may shift into survival model – wondering what else is about to happen that you weren’t expecting and may not be prepared for. 

Given all the things plans represent and what happens when they change, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you feel disappointed and a little off-balance, right now.

Thus, I hope you’ve given (or are giving) yourself permission to feel all the feels. And then…

Shift, When Ready

Coping with this double-whammy of a pandemic and financial crisis is a day-by-day experience. Heck, sometimes it is hour-by-hour. (At least this is true for me.)

However, one of the things I keep reminding my clients (and myself) of is the fact that our plans have gotten derailed before. And, we adapted.

Plus, even in the midst of having to “build the plane while in the air,” when your plans get changed, your vision tends to remain intact!

And one of the many lessons from this major crisis is the reminder to never get too, too comfortable with the plans you make

Instead, get comfortable with the notion that planning is more of a thinking exercise.

This is one of the reasons I like Charlie’s statement shared above, as well as the quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Thus, when you’re ready to tweak your plans, in response to what’s changed in the last few weeks, here are five ways (a combination of questions and actions to take) to go through the process — hopefully with a little more ease:

How do you make plans?

When you need to tweak your plans, it’s also a great time to review how you make plans in the first place. Assessing how you’ve done it in the past may provide useful guidance on how to do it differently — in the midst of a crisis.

Adjust your timelines

Most of your goals have a deadline associated with them. Now may be the time to ease up on having hard timelines/deadlines and create ranges instead.

Manage your expectations

As I am finalizing this piece, I just got the news alert that social distancing guidelines are being extended until April 30. Living in NYC, I’m not surprised, and won’t be surprised if it gets extended even further. Like I expressed in this piece, I think having the expectation that things will return to normal is a setup for disappointment. “Normal” is being redefined.

Prioritize

When things shift this dramatically and this quickly, some priorities get adjusted for you. But that doesn’t mean you have to abdicate all your power. Of the things you can control, what and how will you re-prioritize your goals and your plans?

Think small

No, not in terms of scope! Rather in terms of the progress you can make/when. Have short-term become 30-days and long-term become 90-days. It’ll help you to remain nimble until we are on sturdier ground, and it’ll help you manage your feelings and expectations in the process.

A hard truth about life is that your plans often fall short of their initial intent. Because the unexpected always happens. Some aspect of your world or the world changes in ways you hadn’t foreseen. This is why the unexpected and plans are, indeed, strange bedfellows.

#alonetogether is so, so appropriate for this moment in time. The details of how this global health and financial crisis is affecting each of us may vary, but it is definitely affecting ALL of us! It is showing us the individual and collective cracks in our foundation. But it is also revealing (or has the potential to) what’s possible.

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