Sometimes you need a Plan B.
Not long ago I helped a friend with some work around the house. The truth is I'm pretty handy with home repair and renovation projects and as my ex would tell you, I never met a tool I didn't like.
As far as jobs go my friend's request wasn't very difficult nor easy: sort of right in the middle. All things considered – time, labor and materials – I figured about one day without pushing. I was wrong.
For a variety of reasons and factors the job turned out to be much longer and I quit later that night half-finished: not exactly Norm-like quality [This Old House.]
I got to thinking about all the work we do that turns out to be different than our expectations. There was the church project I was on that ended up being a force of one as each member recruited for the project had schedule conflicts. The big work item that was reset and rescheduled so many times the end result bore no resemblance to the initial scope. The relationship that fell off a cliff after so much work.
Things happen, life rears its head and we're faced with a reality we didn't – perhaps couldn't foresee.
Of course the Zen mantra is to have no expectations and thus never experience disappointment. I admit I still struggle with this notion. Is there a better way?
Maybe the better path – at least for me – is to harbor those expectations that matter and have value, while at the same time developing the sense of flexibility and fluidity that is so necessary in today's environment. That's perhaps step one: don't be married to one idea, step or methodology too long.
You see sometimes we hang onto an expectation beyond reason. Far after the point when reality shifts to a different direction we're still looking for something else. Psychiatry defines this as insanity – looking at one thing and calling it another. Do yourself a favor and don't drive yourself crazy wishing the world were different and better aligned with your expectations.
Reality is where it's at.
Beyond that I've learned, or re-learned, that sometimes it's best to really think about out commitments and the energy required to meet them. I recently had to tell a group I could no longer work with them on their church activities – I just don't have the time.
Do I feel bad? Yes, and no. I miss the people and the time together but feel better that someone better able to take my place is doing so. On balance, I made the right choice in stepping aside. It was for the common good.
And finally, when plans, time, expectations and commitment fail to deliver the outcomes we want, rather than plow ahead relentlessly thorough the night – as I have literally done more than once – this time I took the advice of my good friend and stopped at a reasonable point. To reassess, rethink and develop a Plan B.
Life has lots of chances for do-overs and fresh starts if we just listen and look for them. The next time your plans don't gel, don't fall into anxious, angry or anal behavior.
Just develop a Plan B.