Lean Into The Curves
What does it take to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying. Well let’s just say that God has been having a good old chuckle at me over the last week because guess what?
I’m moving to Singapore.
And guess what else?
This was not in my plans.
In fact, I’d been very excited about relocating back to the US in the year ahead, closer to my two oldest kids and a host of exciting professional opportunities. So let’s just say my head has been spinning and my heart has been wrestling with a tumult of emotions as I’ve worked to reset my bearing and lean into a whole new future in the tropics.
There’s no irony lost on me that I’m literally having to take a page out of my own book and ‘lean into life’s curves’ right now. As I wrote in Make Your Mark:
“Life isn’t linear. No matter how well thought out your plans, they’ll eventually collide with a reality you didn’t reckon on.”
Ain’t that the truth!
Yet I also know that when we embrace life’s unexpected twists and turns we discover opportunities for learning and growing that we would never find otherwise.
Of course, looking back on life, it’s easy to see how often those things that didn’t go to plan ended up working in our favor. Imagine the person you’d be today if everything you’d ever wished for had gone to plan. Not half the person you are!
In recent days I’ve had a few teary moments where I’ve got into a psychological boxing match with reality. But fighting with reality only leaves us feeling pissed off or put out and ruminating about what ‘should have been’. It never moves us forward.
While I may not be particularly gracious about it, I am choosing to view life through the lens that trusts that the universe is always conspiring in our favor. Not immediately…not obviously…but ultimately. This lens operates from the mind-set that everything works out in the end and that if things haven’t worked out, it’s not yet the end. It knows that “s**t happens”, but that it’s what you do after the fact that matters far more. Lastly it knows that every disappointment and derailed plan holds a silent invitation – to discover new strengths and expand our ‘capacity for life.’
As I write this now I’m giving myself permission to embrace my uncertainty, vulnerability and disappointment as part and parcel of living a wholehearted life. In the space that is slowly opening up, I feel a bud of excitement for the possibilities and adventures ahead. It’s still just a bud, but I sense a blossoming awaits.
Your circumstances will likely be quite different to my own. Yet one thing is certain: at some point you will also face a future that is far from the one you’d been imagining. When that happens, here are five things to help you reset your bearings and bring your bravest self to make the very best of your brand new future.
1. Lean On Your Tribe
Like most people, my Facebook posts tend to be my ‘highlight reel’ – those little milestones and wins I want to share with family and friends. Not my last one. I decided I’d just be real and raw and share my struggle about this move. I ended by saying I’d appreciate any encouragement or contacts people may have as I start searching for schools for my kids and re-establishing myself professionally, for the third time, in a new continent with no network. The response was overwhelming. The outpouring of “You’ve got this!” encouragement was so uplifting at a time I needed just that.
Research shows that the stronger our support network, the better we cope with challenges and the faster we recover from them. You may not want to post on social media, but don’t be too proud to reach out, confide your struggle and ask for help for fear of appearing weak or needy. In fact, asking for help reveals just the opposite; that you are brave and you want to become stronger. As I found last week the more people who know how they can help you, the more who will.
2. Mind Your Language
Your words create your reality. Describe your situation as a ‘nightmare’ or ‘total disaster’ and you’ll experience just that. Describe it as ‘interesting’ or ‘exciting’ and it will shift the emotions you feel and the actions you take. I’ve been using the term ‘plot twist’ over the last week as it helps to lighten my emotions around it. ‘Talking up’ your challenges using dramatic language that creates Armageddon-size catastrophes only diminishes your sense of self-efficacy. Far better to describe your situation in ways that place you firmly in a position of power, capable of rising to any sized challenge.
3. Dial Up Self-Care
When a car gets regular tune ups, it goes further on less gas, hugs the curves better and rarely breaks down. If ever. We humans aren’t all that different. When life’s lobbed a curve ball your way, dial up self-compassion, lower the expectations you’re putting on yourself and prioritize self-care – body, mind and spirit. Go for a run. Write in your journal. Read something uplifting. Listen to music or your favorite podcasts. Take a bath. Play with your dog. Book into a yoga class. Investing time in whatever restores you back to you “best self” – body, mind and spirit – will help keep negativity at bay and handle everything else better. Here’s an older blog post I wrote about my top five daily rituals.
4. Choose Faith Over Fear
When things haven’t gone to plan it’s highly tempting to rant and rail and throw yourself a large scale pity party. A few may even join you. But to what end? However hard it is to see any light at the other end of the tunnel right now, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s those times when your hope may be feeling most dim, that you need to hold on to it tightest and trust that no matter how dire things seem right now, they won’t stay that way for ever. Yes, this too shall pass. Your biggest setbacks can introduce you to strength, resilience and resourcefulness that may otherwise have lain dormant. So however tough you’re doing it right now, keep faith that it will all be okay. As Martin Seligman wrote in Learned Optimism “Optimists endure the same storms in life as pessimists. But they weather them better and emerge from them better off.”
5. Rewrite your story
I’ve written before how we live in our stories and how profoundly they can shape our experience of life. Right now you’re probably telling yourself a story about what lies ahead and chances are, it’s not necessarily setting you up for success. So as you think about what it will take to turn this unexpected change to your plans into a win, ask yourself this:
What story would I have to tell myself to turn this into something I’ll one day look back on and be grateful for?
Then write down whatever comes up. I’ve been doing lots of writing in my journal in recent days (as well as reading and re-reading the chapter Lean Into the Curves from my own book!). Not only does writing help me process the mixed bag of emotions I’ve been feeling but it helps to elevate my thinking so that I’m approaching this challenge with a mindset that will help me make the very most of it.
I encourage to do the same.
While your plans might follow a straight path, life rarely does. You may not like its twists and turns but you’ll enjoy your journey through life so much more when you lighten up and lean into whatever’s coming around the next corner.
Singapore here I come!