What to do when life doesn’t go according to plan

If you’re a Type-A, organized, and detail-oriented planner you’re probably happiest when things are going according to plan. Checking things off my to-do list and seeing a project come to life makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Can you relate?

So when you’re wired for structure, what happens when life doesn’t go according to your carefully constructed plan?  What if you just flat-out can’t get everything done or you run into a huge snag?  If you’re like me, it’s a bit overwhelming. Okay, let’s be real here…that’s a nice way of saying I end up having a mini breakdown on occasion. I know I should trust God and not worry, but sometimes it takes my emotions awhile to catch up with my brain.

I’m definitely a work-in-progress on this one, but here are a few steps I’m learning help me regain a healthy perspective:

Step #1: Stop to think and pray

When emotions are running high, it’s easy to lose perspective. It’s also tempting to rush around to get things done, but when you’re overwhelmed you’re less likely to make good decisions. It’s best to stop and think things through.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why is this stressing me out? Have I been getting enough sleep? Have I missed too many workouts and need that stress relief?
  • What do I have influence or control over in this situation? What do I not have control over?
  • Have I overcommitted myself and that’s adding to my stress? If so, what exactly is on my to-do list? Is there anything I can delegate or delay? Do I have time allotted to complete each item? Is there anything I should eliminate?

As I’m asking myself these questions, I’m also asking God for wisdom. What’s my responsibility in all this versus what do I need to let go and trust Him to handle? Am I really having faith that God will take care of what concerns me or am I trying to do everything in my own strength?

Step #2: Sound-off

Sometimes you need to talk through your situation with someone. Processing thoughts and emotions out-loud often helps us solve the issue.

Also, talking with someone who cares about you and what you’re dealing with just feels good. It’s wonderful to be completely known and still unconditionally loved – even when we’re a bit of a mess. Whether this is your spouse, sibling, parent, or close friend, it helps to share what you’re going through and to know you’re not in it alone.

Step #3: Build momentum

Look at your to-do list (the “what I can control list”) and knock out a few easy, quick wins. Getting a few things done, even small tasks, provides a psychological boost. You’re making progress towards your plan again and can build on that momentum.

Step #4: Have fun

I enjoy my work and often lose track of time while writing or working on a project. Yet even when you’re having fun putting our plans into action, we still need time away to relax. Play with your kids, take your spouse out to dinner, have a girls/guys night out, read a fiction book, watch a game, etc. Do something that is relaxing and recharges your batteries.

If we let work, even spiritual service, consume our every minute we won’t last very long. Church leaders are subject to burnout just like folks who work in corporate jobs. Be a good steward of yourself so you’ll have energy and motivation for the long term.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan.   Sometimes that involves a wonderful surprise; other times it can throw us off-center a bit. Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you’ll never have a hard time dealing with the unexpected. What you do next is what truly matters.

How do you handle the unexpected?