6 Things To Do When Life Doesn’t Go According To Plan

Making the best out of a bad situation can teach you things about yourself, and may even inspire you to do something different.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my art teacher told the class to create a poster of what we imagine our life to look like in 10 years. It's been a little over 10 years since that day, and  despite the imaginations of my 15-year-old self, I, unfortunately , am not a world famous fashion designer with three kids who's married to a B2k member. While I can laugh at my teenage "dreams" not coming to pass, it's a bit harder to get over the unfulfilled (or yet to be fulfilled) goals I've made as an adult. The goals that didn't really seem farfetched yet still managed to escape my reach. The ones that I was supposed to achieve because I "followed all the rules." These kinds of setbacks are hard to accept. 

Before graduating college, I understood life to be transactional — you get out what you put in. Doing what's required will automatically advance you to the next grade level. Studying for a test will guarantee you good grades. Doing extra work will garner praise from your professor. Before entering the real world, I was living in a world of instant feedback. As many new grads do, I quickly realized life's true reality. No matter how hard you worked or what you planned, sometimes life can take a different direction.

We all want to be in control of our destiny. We create this perfect storyline for our lives and expect the universe to stay on script. The thing is, though, the world is bigger than just us and because of that, not everything will go our way. Whether it's career or love, our paths may unexpectedly take a different turn and throw us off balance. Failures and setbacks may feel like the end but it truly can be a new beginning. Keep scrolling for how to deal when life doesn't go according to plan. 

1. Don’t be afraid to change.

Photo via Ian Stauffer I Unsplash
Photo via Ian Stauffer I Unsplash

After working in the fashion industry for a few years, I had a hard time accepting a difficult truth: I hated it. After all those years studying the industry, I was finally in it, yet I did not enjoy it. At the time, I felt like I ruined my future because I was now stuck in something that wasn't meant for me. It wasn't until I realized that I had the power to change my situation and to be OK with changing, that I felt like my life was back on track. There is nothing wrong with closing a chapter in your life to start a new one. Even the most successful leaders have made career changes, and for the better. Oprah Winfrey, for example, was fired from her news reporting job and "demoted" to host a daytime talk show called "People Are Talking," because producers found her to be "unfit for television news." While her news reporter career was over, her career as a legendary talk show host, and all around media queen, took off.

2. Make the most out of your situation.

You won't always get the support or resources you want, but you can always use what you have. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like hard times and setbacks. Think about Insecure star and creator Issa Rae, who at one point dreamed of writing for television, but only had a camera and super small budget when she created cult internet classic Awkward Black GirlMaking the best out of a bad situation can teach you things about yourself and may even inspire you to do something different. 

3. Check your instincts and your productivity.

When things aren't going the way you want them to, take the time to check-in with your intuition. Many successful business people and leaders are in tune with the power of their intuition. Steve Jobs, Apple founder and an icon for bouncing back after failure, said in his self-titled biography, "intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect." Sometimes we ignore all the vibes and messages we receive in order to do what is expected. Even if it doesn't make sense, it's important to follow your intuition. Are you doing things that will actually deliver the results you are seeking? Are you distracting yourself from your passion project? Sometimes, deep down we know we aren't doing as much as we can, yet still expect to be where we want to be. The dream can't happen on its own. 

4. Allow your failures to unlock your success.

Photo via Kayle Kaupanger I Unsplash
Photo via Kayle Kaupanger I Unsplash

If you're dealing with failure, don't look at it as a negative. Rather see it as an opportunity. Failure comes in many forms, but they all come with a lesson. And those lessons can be used to make better decisions. Failures also allow you the space to do something else. Before becoming a successful author, J.K. Rowling was a single mother on the verge of homelessness. "Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life," Rowling said in her famous Harvard speech

5. Interrogate your worries and fears.

If the life you are living is not the life you imagined, find out if what you imagined was what you really wanted in the first place. Marriage, kids, and a white picket fence is the dream for some, but it doesn't have to be a dream for you, and that's OK. Sometimes our worries and fears are founded on the expectation of others. Black-ish actress Tracee Ellis Ross has spoken out about her own feelings towards being perceived as a "failure" for not having a family by a certain age. "It's really interesting to be a woman, and to get to 45, and to not be married yet, and to not have kids. Especially when you have just pushed out your fifth kid on television," Ross said in her speech at Glamour's 2017 Woman of the Year awards. She went on to say "So here I am sorting out what my life looks like when it's fully mine. [...] It takes a certain bravery to do that. It means risking being misunderstood, perceived as alone and broken, having no one to focus on, fall into or hide behind, having to be my own support and having to stretch and find family love and connection outside of the traditional places. But, I want to do it. I want to be the Brave Me, the real me, the one whose life is my own."

6. Start over.

Do not be afraid to begin again. Many of the most successful leaders, entertainers, and innovators are people who did not win the first time around, or whose life took a path they did not see coming. Nevertheless, they never gave up and continued on their journey overcoming any obstacle in their way. When actress Chrissy Metz was casted for the award-winning drama This Is Us, she had only 81 cents in her bank account . Before landing the role, her career had taken a fall. In 2014 she was casted for American Horror Story. "After I got it, I thought, OK, awesome, this is a jumping board for my career! But when it wrapped, there was…nothing."  She almost moved back home to Florida, but she stayed in LA and kept auditioning. 

Cover image via Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

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