4 Things You Can Do When Things Don’t Go As You Planned

“I think we better go to the ER.” I could barely hear the words over the voices in my head saying, “This can’t be happening! Not to me! I’m too young! This can’t be a heart attack!”

On the way to the ER, I convinced myself that since I wasn’t having the typical heart attack symptoms it probably wasn’t a heart attack. I was feeling pretty confident of that when I walked into the ER, but that confidence started to scatter when the guy at the desk immediately moved me to the head of the line and insisted that I go from one room to the next via a wheel chair.

So there I am… in an emergency room, connected to machines, pain in my chest, and alarms going off because my blood pressure was going for an all time record.

As all the nurses scurried around my bed concerned about my blood pressure, I looked up at the TV in the room to see scantily clad to women in the latest infomercial for a Brazilian butt-lift exercise. I suggested that this could be the cause of my elevated blood pressure. The nurses just laughed. I wasn’t sure how to take their laughter. Were they laughing at my quirky sense of humor, or were they saying I should be past such things at my age? Either way, they didn’t take me seriously.

Anyway, as I laid in that hospital bed, waiting for some sort of pharmaceutical magic bullet that would put me out of my misery, one thing kept going through my head…”This is not what I had planned.”

You see, I was scheduled to be in Atlanta for a conference the next day. Preparation had been made. Money had been paid. Advance assignments had been completed. Needless to say, I didn’t get to go to the conference and all I could think of was, “This is not what I had planned.”

All of us have things happen that we did not plan on. Hopefully it’s not a midnight trip to the ER with pain in your chest, blood pressure through the roof, and Brazilian butt-lift exercises playing on the TV. It may be more like a car breaking down, a child’s broken arm, owing more taxes than you expected, a job change that requires a move, or a host of other unforeseen things that can rattle your cage and raise your blood pressure.

Since unforeseen things can and will happen, here are 4 things you can do when things don’t go as you planned:

1. Accept things as they are…not as you wish they were.

When things go wrong, it’s normal and natural to wish things were different, and maybe even to get sad or angry over the fact that things didn’t work out as you wanted. But it’s a poor use of time and energy to continually rehearse the way you wish things were. It’s only when we accept what we have that we can begin to work with what we have.

2. Believe there could be a purpose to it…even it it’s not immediately evident or welcomed.

Maybe you’re not a big “God-person.” Maybe you believe in fate, or luck, or karma, or some other sort of self-correcting principle in life. Whatever it may be, if you believe there is purpose to life, then you will look for that purpose and whatever it was that upset your plans will take on new meaning.

If you are a follower of God, Romans 8:28 states…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Note that this verse does not say everything is good, but rather everything can work together for good…even the bad and the unplanned. It’s a call to look beyond just the thing in front of us.

3. Commit yourself to making the best out of what you have…rather than continuing to grieve what you’ve lost.

I may have said this in a previous post, but it bears repeating. Professional poker players make a living playing poker, not because they always get the cards they want, but because they know how to play the cards they don’t want well.

No one gets everything they want, but everyone can learn to make the most of what they have. It will always be easier to make the best out of what you have, then to make the best out of what you don’t have.

4. Do the best you can with what you have…rather than give less than your best because you didn’t get what you wanted.

There is a big difference between making a commitment to do the best with what you have and actually doing the best with what you have. You can except, believe, and commit all you want, but it’s in the doing that things actually change. If you roll up your sleeves and make the best of what you’ve got, you may find that you’ve got more than you thought.

Maybe you know people who respond this way when things don’t go as they planned. If so, watch them, listen to them, and ask them how they do it. If you don’t know someone like this, follow the life of Joseph in Genesis, chapters 37-50. Joseph is an excellent example of someone who handled things well when life didn’t go as he planned.

Let me encourage you to start practicing these four principles in the small things…before someone puts you in a hospital gown at midnight and there’s nothing to do but watch choreographed gym girls do work-out routines to the dinging of your blood pressure monitor. Just say’n.

Oh, by the way. It wasn’t a heart attack. Just esophageal spasms. Which means I missed everything over a supposed case of bad reflux. I guess that should make me feel better, but I’m still working on that.

I encourage you to identify one area of your life where things have not gone as you planned. Then work at applying these four steps and see if it makes a difference for you. 

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg