Discover more from The Takeaway
5 Ways to Keep Your Life on Track When the Unexpected Shows Up
The life-changing magic of having a Plan B
We dream of a perfect life.
We set our goals and make our plans. We work hard — and then life happens.
We lose our job. Our spouse is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The economy nosedives and wipes out our retirement savings.
At first, we reel in shock as it all sinks in. Nothing makes sense. There are no clear answers. When we finally catch our breath, the questions overwhelm us. How will I ever get through this? What’s going to happen to me? Will I survive?
The things that were so important yesterday don’t matter anymore. The new car you were planning to buy seems like a bad joke. The reluctance you felt when you thought about cleaning out the garage would be a welcome exchange for the future you now face.
So what do you do?
For some, it’s a spontaneous reaction, powered by adrenaline and fear.
And even though you know there may be a better solution—a better way—you don’t have the luxury of time to consider all the options, to look at the long-term effects of your choices.
You take action because you have to. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but wait for the smoke to clear, to see a true picture of the damage and evaluate—in retrospect—what might have prevented the problem in the first place.
This often produces an assessment of blame and relinquishing of responsibility.
“It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
Inevitably, the better question comes to the surface.
“How could I have been better prepared?”
Planning for the worst is not something we typically do. We’re constantly told to think positive, to send our very best thoughts into the universe and wait for them to return to us ten-fold.
But sometimes the universe has other plans.
And when life delivers the unexpected, you need an emergency strategy, a Plan B you can immediately activate when your career, health, or some other aspect of your personal life falls apart.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” — Woody Allen
Point of Fact . . . You will use a Plan B at some point in your life. The question is, how much influence will you have on its design and implementation?
You can allow it to unfold by default, with its content, strategy, and options molded by chance and circumstance. Or you can plan for negative contingencies, using your own pre-considered choices.
Granted, you can’t anticipate every possibility. But evaluating your current resources and fallback options in a “what if” scenario will make you better prepared to make difficult decisions when your livelihood — or even your life — depends on it.
“All good will be attacked.” — Jim Rohn
That being said, below are five suggestions to help guide you in constructing your own personal Plan B.
Establish a timeline.
If your income were to suddenly stop, for how long could you depend on your current resources? These can be quantifiable measurements, for example, how long will your savings last if you lose your job, or how long your severance package will continue to pay the bills.
If you find yourself facing health issues, you’ll need to research the historic recovery rate for each treatment option, possible side effects, and the effectiveness of non-traditional protocols.
This is not the time to lie to yourself with best-case scenarios or try to convince yourself that “everything will work out okay if I just wait it out.”
Consider potential courses of action.
Try using a logic diagram, with inputs and outputs for both yes and no answers. If the answer is no, what are the possible options? The more options you have, the greater the chances of success.
Ask yourself if more information would be helpful. Determine if you know everything you need to know about the comparisons you’re making or the situations you have to choose from.
This can be extremely helpful in deciding what to do next, especially when emotion and the overwhelming nature of the circumstances leave you distraught or on the edge of panic.
Find the best environment for your brain to thrive.
This means taking a break when you hit a wall. Go outside, take a walk, and change the visual scenery.
Another option is to allow your mind to “sleep on it,” because sleep actually helps your brain to process the data and come up with possible solutions.
While you’re going through the process, remember that confusion is the mind’s natural “holding” state until an answer is reached. Neuro-linguistic research has long held that “feeling confused” indicates your mind is actively working on a solution.
Ask for help.
Filter advice and information obtained from others by what they have to gain or lose from your decision.
If they’re invested in your outcome, you’ll need to factor their input accordingly. And remember, the opinions and advice of others carry no guarantee of making you happy or providing you with satisfaction in the long term.
That’s up to you.
Relying too much on the advice of others may provide a scapegoat to blame for an unsatisfying future. But you’re the one who will have to bear the weight of making choices that were ultimately wrong for you.
When things go wrong, try to hold on to as many “normal” activities in your life as possible.
If you usually go to the park with your dog on Tuesdays and Fridays, make the effort to continue. If you typically set aside Sunday afternoons to garden, or read a chapter in a favorite novel, or play a round of golf, do your best to maintain that schedule.
Change is best accomplished by altering one element at a time. For example, don’t give up your gym membership or Friday date night unless they’re completely out of the question. Keep as many positive life rituals as possible, knowing this helps stabilize your mindset as you explore new options during this transitional phase of your life.
Listen to the podcast of this article at Success Point 360 Podcast
Thanks for reading,
Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.