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Daily Leadership Thought #162 – When Things Don’t Go As Planned


There is a famous saying that goes, “Man plans, God laughs.” It is sometimes sad but true. While I’m a staunch supporter of goal setting and planning, I also realize that things seldom work out exactly as planned. In fact, it is often the unplanned episodes in our lives that end up defining our character. No one can possible think through every possible scenario and contingency. Life just doesn’t work that way.

All the above being said, however, life is also not a matter or pure chance; it’s balancing act. I often tell my clients that you need to aim for the bull’s eye, but be happy to just win the game. No one throw the darts perfectly every time. The same thing happens in golf and countless other sports. One day you feel you can do no wrong and then the next day you simply muddle through and make the best of some bad chances.

All sorts of things will happen in our lives. Loved ones will pass away unexpectedly; businesses will fail; marriages will end; our health will inevitably have some complications; friendships will fade; etc. This doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to make solid business decisions; work on building healthy relationships; and/or focus on our own health and well-being. It just means that even the best of plans and intentions will get sidetracked in some way, shape or form.

What defines a life is how we deal with the unexpected. Adversity and challenge will rise up and confront us all, sometimes when we LEAST expect it. We will feel that we did everything right and still things didn’t work out. What then? Bad things do happen to good people.

I don’t claim to subscribe to any particular “Zen” philosophy, but I do admire the view that life sometimes does just happen and we need to somehow emotionally disconnect ourselves from the outcome and be present in the experience. Questions like, “what am I supposed to learn from this?” or “how did I contribute to the situation?” can be helpful. It’s also important to have some sense of underlying values and beliefs guiding your life.

So, by all means, live your life proactively. Do your best to think through and reflect on your life and what you want to have happen. Set measurable goals with specific timelines. Develop action plans and “to do” lists, but don’t expect perfection or unmitigated success. Instead think of these activities as more of a guidepost or general sense of direction. When you get off track, try and understand why and make midcourse changes if needed. Self-reflection is a critical component of personal growth. It’s also important to be open to new experiences and learning opportunities. The path may need to change (whether you want it to or not). Just stayed grounded in your values and be true to yourself. It will all work out in the end, we just don’t always know what “work out” means and that is okay. Your “North Star” still exists and can still be navigated.

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