Plans rarely work out the way we want them to. Life happens. Illness, accidents, deaths, births, unexpected and expensive home and car repairs, and so on. Goals and plans meet roadblocks, steep inclines, or require longer paths than we realized.
When Plans Go Sideways
We are tempted to throw our hands in the air, declare how nothing ever works in our favor, sit down, and give up. We look at other people’s successes and foolishly believe they didn’t have to overcome the challenge of the unexpected – every path was flat, straight, and passed straight through a Disney movie.
Our vision becomes so obscured by the unfairs and the shoulda woulda coulda’s that we are unable to see the positive opportunities and outcomes of a situation. Please note I am not saying each circumstance is positive; rather, learning and growth are available within every circumstance.
A Lifelong Lesson
For most of my life, I believed absolutely no good came from my childhood experiences. I was sure I was doomed to a constant repeat of vivid remembrance for the rest of my life – suffering for the sake of suffering.
During a conversation with a friend, we began talking about work ethic. She observed that my father gave me a gift by teaching me how to work hard. My body recoiled at the thought. I didn’t want to acknowledge his influence on anything, especially a principle I hold dear.
But, while I don’t agree with his methods, I must admit, he taught me to work without complaining. During my freshman year of high school, I had grand plans for my track and field career. I wanted to be one of the best in the state and earn a full-ride scholarship for college. (If you plan to play, you better prepare to win, right? A topic for another time.) Anyway, as a freshman, I had a long, long way to go. I had no natural talent. One coach told me I looked like a truck stuck in the mud when I ran – a lot of expended energy going nowhere.
After coming home from track practice, I sat on the couch and sulked. A girl who only sometimes came beat me in every 200-meter repeat. I went to every practice and ran on the weekends. I reasoned within my teenage mind that I should be the one beating her.
My father loved sports and was fiercely competitive. He once told me if I wasn’t throwing up after a workout, I wasn’t working hard enough. Anyhow, he came home and saw me sulking. He asked how practice went, and I expounded my discouragement in great detail.
He didn’t give me a pep talk with sugary words about everyone being a winner. He said something to the effect of, “Someone will always be faster, stronger, and smarter than you. You better learn to work harder than all of them. Don’t expect anyone to hand you anything.”
Neither one of us said another word.
I look back on our conversation and see how he molded one of my most positive and defining characteristics. (Two other variables were his ever-present expectation for productivity and his example of putting in an honest day’s work for a fair day’s pay.)
The initial realization did not sit well with me. I had to eat a few humble pies because reality doesn’t change whether I accept it. There was a bright side to my childhood – a life lesson that serves me daily as I wake up and do what needs doing regardless of whether I feel like it.
Look for Blessings
We can look at tragedy and heartache only to see ashes. Or, we can look for new life budding underneath.
Take a look at where you have been and where you are. What lessons have you learned? How are you a better person for having ‘walked through the fire’? Have you forged friendships? Pursued a hobby to express yourself and help others feel like they are not alone? Learned compassion?
Life may not be working out the way you planned. You may experience repeated roadblocks due to the brutality of another.
You have learned valuable lessons along the way that can bless your life and the lives around you. You can be the voice that tells someone to keep going, who sees their strength when they cannot see their own.