A Brief Guide to Handling the Unexpected

On Tuesday, the weather forecast called for an accumulation of 1-3 inches of snow between Wednesday and Thursday morning. By Thursday morning, the official record was 40 inches. Some folks were without power. No one was driving anywhere. So plans had to change. 

Step 1: Don’t Panic in Large, Friendly Letters

Instead of grabbing your towel (as recommended by The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), take a deep breath. Our primitive limbic system reacts to the unexpected with an automatic reaction of fear. 

Successful people know this and take a moment to curb that response and regain control. The military teaches its forces breathing techniques for combat situations. We may not be dealing with a life-or-death issue, but taking a moment to breathe and regain control of our initial response.

Step 2: Remain Positive & Maintain Control Over Change

Okay, a little cursing may be in order but accept what you can’t control. Focus on the fact that it’s never as bad as it could be and determine what action you can take.

Step 3: Get Good, Current Information From a Reliable Source

Discover what you know (I’m not getting the car out of the driveway without clearing it) — and what you don’t know (But are the roads even open?). Base your decisions on what you know while acknowledging changes may be necessary as you find new information. 

Step 4: Focus on What Matters Now

With people dying every minute in a global pandemic, is your destination wedding in Greece really what matters? And sure, running out of LaVeggio coffee is inconvenient, but maybe it’s more important that folks can get to the hospital.

Here is where the Priority Planning Process shines. If you have made your To-Do list and prioritized the top 9 items, you have no problem in shifting gears. First, you can add anything new, re-prioritize, and make adjustments. If the meeting is still essential, you can change it to a Zoom meeting or conference call. If you need to clear a path in the snow, can you count that as going to the gym today?

Step 5: Accept Risk

All decisions have a risk factor. Don’t expect perfection, and don’t fail to act out of fear. We are all fallible. Focus on doing the best you can with what knowledge and tools you have available.

Step 6: Create Contingency Plans for Changes

For things that truly matter, develop alternative plans. Have your “What if” discussion before a setback, not after. Ask, “What if the weather forecast is wrong?” before the storm hits. Decide what you can ignore, what becomes critical, and how you can mitigate the impact. 

Step 7: Learn to Trust Yourself

Practice listening to the tiny voice in your head. Learn when it overreacts or is overly influenced by others. Also, note when your gut feeling is correct. How does that feel? What kind of signals do you get? Successful people develop strong instincts tied to valid information.

Now, sit back and enjoy the cocoa as the snow continues to fall. And maybe check out this piece at Intelligent Change on “The Five Key Relationships That Will Help You Become the Best You.”

(Coming Very Soon: A Guide to Planners and Journals)

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