Have you ever had a plan that, well, didn’t go as planned? If you say, “no,” I have to call bullshit. We all have plans for eating, sleep, school, work, relationships, hobbies, projects, retirement, kids, life, etc, etc. etc. Some plans are shorter and some longer. Some plans are more impactful and some less. Some plans are changed by us and some for us. You know all of this.
Where it gets interesting is how we respond when our plans change or we are presented with a different or better path. Some of us might do everything in our power, no matter how many obstacles and new pieces of information arise, to get our train back on the same track. We exhaust ourselves pushing that train through the mud and up the hill with blinders on. Some of us might stop and wait for someone or a “sign” or direction from anyone else to tell us how to proceed. Some of us become curious when our plans change and we pause to observe and take in the new information, good and bad. We see that our response in that moment and the next moment and the next is ours to create.
It is in our power to write the next page of our story. We could get wrapped up in “the stories we tell ourselves”, or instead, focus on the truth as we take actions that align to who we are and what’s most important to us. Plans change and “signs” can take on all kinds of meaning that you allocate to them. Clarity in what’s most important and the essence of who we are gives us space and power to create and take the next best step in each and every moment.
Years ago I met a Junior Computer Science Engineer at Cornell University. He was energetic, smart, and motivated. We hired him as an Intern into a developer role. About mid-way through his internship during one of our regular check-in coaching sessions, he said, “Jennifer, you said I could talk to you about anything. I have a crazy idea. I want to go into Sales.” I said, “Fantastic, that’s exciting. Let’s talk about why this matters to you and what it could look like.” He could have ignored his voice of wisdom telling him to pay attention to this idea, but he didn’t. The clarity of the message was right there for him to see, as long as he was open to the idea of a new path, a different track. He was courageous in bringing this vision into reality. He then had support, mine and many others, to develop a plan and pursue a role that would combine his technical chops and natural sales skills. He took the reins of his horse and steered it down the path that was aligned with his vision for himself. This took hard work and energy, but he was willing and clear about what he was doing. We converted him into a full-time technical sales role upon his graduation and he excelled.
The other day I was talking to a young woman moving into her senior year of college. She is goal-oriented and driven and was facing some decisions on what path she should take upon graduation. Her long term vision is clear, yet she is looking for a “sign” to show her what next step she should take to move forward. What is it that we think we will see outside ourselves that will show us the way when we can’t see past the present? We can see a penny, pick it up, and “all day long we’ll have good luck.” We can read our horoscope looking for a “sign.” Now, I love a good horoscope, but who assigns the meaning? You do. You are in charge of where you place that energy and action.
We all have our own answers. We just need to be willing, courageous, and open to seeing what we need to see and taking those small micro-steps forward. Fear, anxiety, anger, lack of skill, and other distractions will seem to block our path and divert our attention away from what is truly important for us to do. This is absolutely normal, especially when we are up to something big in our lives. It is our responsibility to get a birds-eye view of ourselves in uncertain moments so we can command our actions and not let life “happen” to us.
The next time your plans change, we know they will, and you find yourself looking for a “sign” or scared to change tracks - stop, breathe, be still, observe, and see. You have the power to take the next best action that serves you and what’s most important to you, one small step at a time. Be willing to shift your attention and you will find ease and certainty - the freedom to be.