When I was in my twenties I had a magnificently clear picture of what my life would look like by forty.
I’d be a well-known actor/director who had a fulfilling and sustainable career both in front of and behind the camera, a handsome loving husband, a couple of well-behaved kids, maybe a dog, and definitely, a big beautiful house overlooking the water somewhere.
Fast forward to forty and the only part of that image I had manifested was two questionably behaved kids. I didn’t know if I even liked dogs or my ex-husband. I found myself crying at my dining table one day, a single, unemployed, stay-at-home mum.
This was not the plan.
We often fall into jobs, or relationships, or lives that we hadn’t really planned for. At some point, we may take a look at our lives and wonder precisely how we ended up quite where we did and, how we became who we are?
Did we hook a left one day when we should have gone right? Maybe it was a missed U-turn?
When life doesn’t turn out how we hoped, planned or expected we can feel everything from disappointment to bitterness and failure. Trust me, I remember it well from my own experiences, and I see it a lot with my clients.
Perhaps you expected to be further along in your career, or even in a career by now? Maybe you expected to be out of the rental market? Did you imagine yourself in a significant relationship by this stage, or do you long to hear the pitter-patter of little feet that have not arrived?
It can be heartrending trying to reconcile the life you dreamed of and desired for yourself, and the life you actually have. In fact, it’s one of the greatest sources of discontent for people.
How do we change our view from focusing on the parts of our plan that didn’t work out to accept and appreciate the life we have created instead?
Change what you can
Your job sucks? Change it. Your relationship sucks? Ditch it. Your attitude sucks? Same goes.
Knowing what is in your control and doing something about it, is super empowering. You can make different choices and create new opportunities, new possibilities and new experiences for yourself.
You are in the driver’s seat of your life.
Accept what you can’t change
All well and good when it’s something relatively simple but when it is a big one, this can be easier said than done, right? How do we accept a big life disappointment?
Start by being grateful for what you do have. It may sound twee but one of the best ways to feel better about your life instantly is to focus on what is going well, and what you do have to be thankful for. Not what is missing.
Keep moving forward
You want to sit in it, dwell on it and lament the hell out of it? Be my guest, but it dwelling on it not only does not change a thing but it perpetuates the negative emotions around it.
Shift your focus to the future instead. Allow yourself to see other possibililities that are available to you, perhaps even because of or in spite of what hasn’t gone to plan.
Get a new plan, and remember the person with the most flexibility will always do the best in life.
Find the lessons
It’s not always easy to see the lessons in the moment, but every shituation we experience in life has many possible lessons. Being able to utilise the lessons of what hasn’t gone well empowers us to flip the energy and perception and harness it to help us move forward.
As Helen Keller famously quoted “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
Remember, life is not a race to finish line, because the finish line ends in a party you don’t even get to attend. Knowing when to push and when to surrender is an ongoing feat to master, and so much of our happiness can be wrapped in this conundrum.
Allow yourself to be open to the experiences and situations presented along your journey even if the route is not the one you had envisioned or planned. Who knows, you may even end up somewhere better than you ever imagined. I’ve had two successful careers since that day I cried at the dining table – one as a freelance health and wellbeing writer and now as a life coach, and I am re-married to a most wonderful man.
Sometimes, the life we thought we wanted needs to give way to the life we’re destined to have.