If only life were predictable.
Do you ever wish for that?
We merrily (or sometimes stoically) move through our days and weeks and years — following our plan, doing our thing, pursuing our goals.
And then one day, one normal day . . . WHAM BLAM BOOM!
Life smacks you upside the head with something totally unexpected — something not so good.
It could be a relatively minor event . . .
The interview is cancelled for the job you really wanted.
It rains on the day you planned the perfect outdoor event.
Your child gets sick the day before you plan a big trip.
And then it could be something life-altering. You lose your job. Your spouse ends the marriage. Your business fails. Your house is struck by lightening and burns (yes, it happens!).
Whether it is a minor inconvenience or a major upheaval, these unplanned and unwanted situations can rock your world. And oddly, sometimes the small ones create more havoc than the biggies. Maybe because they occur more often.
One thing you can surely predict about these unpredictable life events: they will happen — sooner or later.
None of us likes to think about the possibility of these surprise events. Lord knows, we have enough to worry about just managing our planned actions and goals. Building a fall-out shelter for possible incoming torpedoes is not a thrilling way to spend our precious time.
But unless you are Bubble Boy (or Girl) and live in a germ free vacuum, real living is going to throw the unexpected at you many times during your lifetime.
Knowing that fact, I think the best and only sane option is to lean into the wind and embrace the possibility (nay probability) that life is not always going to go according to plan.
- If you come to expect the unexpected, it's not quite so shocking or debilitating.
- If you come to embrace the lessons and possibility for growth during these events, then you have turned lemons into lemonade.
- And if you are prepared with a back-up plan for the most important areas of your life, you will have a safety net to catch you as you regain your footing and decide your next steps.
How to Create A Back-Up Plan
It's not possible to be prepared for every potential disaster or upset in life. The universe is very creative in the assortment of calamities that might come our way.
Things can happen that you may never have contemplated, much less planned for. (I have a friend whose husband delivered their third child in the front seat of their car on the way to the hospital!)
Although you can't prepare for everything, you can prepare for some. And you can create a general back-up plan for your own expectations, behavior, and frame of mind for those totally unexpected events.
The Events You've Considered
There's a lot to be said for peace of mind, and having a safety net for some of life's more common disruptions is well worth the effort. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are some ideas for a back-up plan in various areas of your life:
- I have an emergency fund of 3-6 months of income.
- I put away savings for retirement, college funds, and other future needs/wants.
- I pay my bills on time.
- I don't spend beyond my means or carry debt.
- I pay my taxes regularly and on time.
- I have access to a good accountant.
- I don't make risky investments.
- I am financially knowledgeable and understand how to manage money.
- I have an up-to-date will.
- I have insurance.
- I keep my important papers (and other valuables) in a safe place.
- I have a security system, fire extinguisher, and a smoke alarm.
- I have an escape plan that I've shared with my family.
- I have emergency contact numbers easily accessible.
- My important papers are orderly and easy to access.
- I have a back-up for my important computer files.
- I have protection against identity theft.
- I have photocopies of my driver's license, passport, social security card, and birth certificate.
- I have a friend or family member who can help in case of emergency.
- I have an up-to-date resume.
- I have a good feel for my job security and the financial health of my employer.
- I am regularly updating my skills or working to make myself more valuable.
- I stay informed about other career opportunities in my industry.
- I network often and have a strong circle of associates in my industry.
- I have ideas for working independently or as a consultant if necessary.
- I feel confident about my interview skills.
- I understand how to use social media to connect with others professionally.
- I'm aware that my emotional intelligence plays a vital role in my career success and I have a high emotional IQ.
Health and Safety
- I understand proper nutrition and eat healthily.
- I exercise regularly.
- I keep my weight in the normal range for my height.
- I don't smoke, take recreational drugs, drink in excess, or consume any toxic or unhealthy substances.
- I follow my regular medical check-ups and recommended preventative procedures.
- I have ways to cope with and reduce stress.
- I use safety precautions including a seat belt, helmet when necessary, safe sex, sunscreen, etc.
- I don't speed or take risks when driving or engage in other high-risk activities.
- I get enough sleep.
- I take care of my mental health by seeing a coach or counselor when necessary.
- I allow myself plenty of time to get where I'm going.
- If I live in an area prone to natural disasters (earthquakes, tornado, hurricanes, etc.), I have a plan of action for my escape and/or safety.
- I have proper automotive insurance and keep insurance info in my car.
- I know who to call in case of an emergency and carry a cell phone in my car.
- I don't allow my gas tank to get close to empty.
- I jumper cables and a spare tire in my car, and I know how to use them.
- I keep other emergency items in my car including a first aid kit, flares, blanket, and water.
- I am a member of AAA or other auto emergency service.
- I keep my regular service appointments and my tires are in good shape.
- I tend to problems with my car right away.
- I keep a roll of toilet paper in the car.
- I understand the qualities of emotionally mature relationships, and I work to practice those.
- I put my primary relationships (spouse, partner, children, parents) ahead of everything else in my life and tend to them lovingly.
- I have good communication skills and can deal with conflict in a healthy way.
- I don't over-promise or over-commit.
- My emotional needs are met, and I work to meet those of my loved ones.
- I have many fulfilling friendships and business relationships.
- I practice forgiveness and try not to hold a grudge.
- I don't associate with people who can harm me, my reputation, or my peace of mind.
- I don't use passive aggressive or openly aggressive behaviors.
The Total Out-Of-The-Blue Surprise Events
I can't list these events because, hey, they are completely unexpected. But they might fall in the category of getting abducted by aliens, delivering a baby in your car, having a tree fall on you, learning your spouse has another family, or having a grizzly bear take up residence in your garage.
These are the kinds of events that are hard to plan for but that have been known to happen (maybe not the aliens).
How does one prepare for things you don't know to anticipate?
You can't. But you can prepare for how you will react and respond to these events.
Here are some ideas:
- Practical awareness that life can be unpredictable can help you cope when something unexpected happens. We shouldn't live in fear, nor should we live with the illusion that nothing bad ever happens.
- Define and remember who you want to be in all situations — good or bad. Life's difficulties can bring out the worst in us, but if we know who we are and want to be in any situation, it's easier to step into that place during rough times.
- Yes, it will be upsetting, shocking, or even devastating when an event like this occurs, but take a deep breath and know that you have the ability to cope.
- In difficult situations, practice putting your feelings aside at first in order to deal with the practical matters at hand. Act first, react later.
- Learn the signs of shock or panic and how to deal with those.Try to return to a calm and stable place in your mind so you can make sound decisions. Practice this in small life upsets so you can return to it for the larger ones.
- Have a support system in place of people and professionals you can turn to during a surprise event. This might include friends, family, clergy, a counselor, coach, attorney, or physician.
- Practice non-resistance in everyday life so you can use it for life's turmoil. Shift your thinking to the knowledge that even negative events can offer something positive.
- At the right time, deal with the emotional aftermath in a healthy way. Seek the support of a professional or friend. You can't stuff the emotions forever, or they will emerge in destructive or debilitating ways.
If you don't have a back-up plan in some of these areas of your life, take a few days or a week to put these actions into place. The week between Christmas and New Year's is a great time to set aside for this.
Will you share in the comments any back-up plans that you have created or found useful in your life?