Do you find yourself struggling when things don’t go to plan, or what you expected doesn’t happen, or at least in a way you pictured? How much does it affect your mood and your feelings about yourself and your worth?
How you deal with this can have a profound effect on your happiness.
We are emotional beings, and how we experience the world can change in an instant depending on what mood we’re in.
I like to write about my own experiences as I dig into the layers that make me who I am. Sometimes I’m surprised at what I find. Shocked even. Other times I just get a different perspective on what I already knew which helps me make more sense of things. I love sharing these honest, real lessons with you, and hope that you gain some insight of your own.
Pandemic aside, things have definitely not gone to plan for me in the last couple of years. And I’m not just talking about the small things. It’s been a complete overhaul of my life and my identity, and I’ve laughed, cried, given up, started again and laughed and cried some more.
So if life isn’t going the way you wanted, whether it’s the little things or the big life changing stuff that seems to be totally outside of your control, here’s what’s going on, and some ways you can deal with it better.
"What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be" Anon
It’s said that most human suffering comes from reality not matching up to what we wanted it to be in our heads.
We have the amazing gift of imagination, which allows us to visualise, dream and plan our way through life.
Except this fantasy version of what’s to come and how our life is going to go is rarely achieved, since other people, the weather, traffic and circumstances in general seem to sabotage your “special moments” or derail your carefully laid plans.
Why me? You cry. Don’t I deserve this one nice thing? Why does it always go wrong for me?
You feel disappointed. Sad. Angry. Like the world is against you. That life just, well, isn’t fair.
And to be honest I do believe that’s probably true. We’re not meant to be here for an easy ride. It’s just our culture that wants us to believe that life should be easier or more fun than it is.
It’s definitely OK to have a dream, a plan, an idea of who you’d like to be and what you’d like to do. It’s just we have a tendency to try to control the outcome so it matches our expectations. And really there is no control.
In my blog “3 things you can do to feel in control of your life that actually work” I talk about how control is really just the illusion of control since its not actually possible to achieve.
We can only be in control of 3 things. Our thoughts, feelings and actions. And even then, it can feel so damn hard to do that, so why is it we think we can control everyone else?
This story give you an idea of what’s generally going on.
One of my clearest memories as a kid was being taken to the seaside as a surprise by my grandparents. We’d had a great time, and at the end of the day we were taken for an ice cream treat. It was SO important to choose wisely because we only got one shot. Money was tight and treats were rare.
After spending ages scouring the pictures for the perfect ice cream I chose a beautiful looking Banana Split. When it arrived, a banana in jelly with some squirty cream on top, I was devasted. It looked nothing like the picture.
The point is, not only did it have the power to ruin that whole special day, the meaning I made was also very powerful. I learned to choose carefully or you’ll be disappointed. That if you buy something that’s wrong it will ruin everything. And that restaurant pictures lie! (that last one is actually true…).
I still feel the need to research everything to death, struggle with small decisions and don’t take anything on face value which isn’t helpful most of the time. But I’m a work in progress.
This story is a classic example of how some seemingly innocent childhood memories can turn into beliefs that can be limiting in life. It usually takes more than one experience to form strong beliefs (I simplify to make the point) but one of the best skills you can develop is to be able to separate a past story from what’s going on in the present moment.
What comes up for you?
When things don’t go the way you planned, what’s your reaction? How long does it bother you for? What do you decide about yourself and the world you live in?
"Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference" Virginia Satir
Next time you find yourself getting upset or angry because something you expected or planned in your head didn’t match up just notice what’s going on for you, try these three things:
Reframe with gratitude and lessons
In the moment if you can reframe your experience and be grateful for what is then that’s a good place to start.
By my life not going to plan, people have left that weren’t good for me. New people have come into my life that I’d have never met otherwise. New opportunities have arisen because I started to look for a new direction.
Look at a recent experience that didn’t match up to the vision you had. Whether it’s an event, a change in circumstances that you didn’t choose, how you wanted to come across in a situation.
Ask yourself some simple questions:
What did you learn from it? What unexpected change did this bring with it? What do you now know about yourself that will help you do better next time? What are you thankful for?
Check in with your feelings
If you feel like your reaction is appropriate to what’s happened, that’s great. Some things are hard or sad and that’s OK.
But if you feel you are overly attached to something. If your self-worth depends on it. If your expectations of someone else is so high you feel devasted when they don’t react in the way you wanted or you feel compelled to people please your way to a better outcome, then check in with yourself.
Are you reacting to THIS moment, or from a past experience? What does it say about you that this situation didn’t work out as you imagined?
Chances are it’s shone a light on something that you need to deal with on the inside. A belief about yourself that’s not supporting you. Repressed emotions that have never been allowed to be felt.
Let it out.
Because you’ll never find the happiness you’re looking for if you have an unresolved past to make peace with.
Always Measure Backwards
It’s great to have a clear vision of what you want to do or where you want to be but it’s also important to have flexibility if things change. Life may throw you a curveball, or progress may be slower than you wanted.
It’s when that picture in your head doesn’t actually match up with the reality you’re now faced with the sadness, frustration and judgement comes.
In his latest book, the Gap and the gain. Benjamin Hardy, an Organisational Psychologist and Author, talks about whether we view ourselves as being in the gap or the gain – similar to whether we’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person.
“When you’re in the gain your life is based on your actions and results, not what could have or should have happened” Ben Hardy
If you’re always measuring yourself against an ideal in the future, you’ll never see the progress you’ve made.
And you’ll always be disappointed with the outcome. Most of us are rubbish at setting realistic expectations for ourselves and we also think we can set them for other people. More on that in my blog “Perfectionism – The impossible Goal”.
To measure backwards, Ben advises looking at where you started, say a year ago, and look at where you are now. The gain.
What have you achieved or learned? How have you changed as a person? What do you believe today that you didn’t a year ago?
And if you’re going through something hard in your life, this quote can help you reframe things in a more hopeful way:
"Sometimes, things don’t work out. Not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve so much more". Anon