Last Updated on December 27, 2019
As much as we try to plan ahead, life always throws curveballs our way. I’m sure you’ve had those moments when literally nothing goes the way you thought it would. The detailed plans, the perfect scenarios – they just never seem to pan out.
I’m a planner in many aspects of my life. Planning gives me a sense of certainty and eases my mind from the ‘how the heck am I going to make this work’ type of thoughts. That being said, there have been so many times in my life when I’ve imagined things going a certain way but they end up going completely wrong.
When things don’t go to plan, it’s easy to start freaking out. You might spiral into a negative place when things don’t go your way. You feel frustrated that your emotions seem to be controlling you instead of the other way around.
Even though it might seem impossible, you can teach yourself to stay calm when setbacks come their way. You just need to know what to pay attention to when it happens. In this post, I’m sharing how you can stay calm when things don’t go as planned so that you can move on instead of feeling powerless.
When Things Keep Going Wrong
Coaching a competitive high school dance team this past year has taught me the true meaning of patience. First of all, it’s a lot of work. I plan out practices, I spend time making changes to routines, and I take time out of my weekends to make sure my team is prepared.
But we had two situations this past year that *truly* tested my ability to keep my cool.
The first situation happened on a Monday during the week of a competition. When I arrived at practice, one of the dancers came up to me and told me she’d hit her head and incurred a concussion over the weekend.
I thought to myself, “A concussion?! You’ve got to be kidding me.” But I could only laugh. Not at her, but because of the circumstances. Of course this would happen right before a competition.
As a coach, I didn’t want to lose my cool in front of the team. I try to be as human as possible with them and not project this fake “I’m your coach so I have everything figured out” vibe, but I need to act in a way that helps them to stay calm too. After all, it’s hard to keep calm yourself when an adult is freaking out in front of you.
So we did a little brainstorming as a team and figured out how we could rearrange the formations. Luckily it was a Monday, and we had the rest of the week to get everyone comfortable with the changes.
“You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”– Maya Angelou
A month later when everything was going smoothly, one of my dancers texted me saying she needed a break from the team. This was on a Tuesday, four days before a competition. When I received that text from her, I had a mini-breakdown in my apartment. After everything was going to plan, the unexpected threw itself into the mix again.
Luckily I had the night to think about it, and in the end, I knew that we just had to move on. There was no time to dwell on it anyway.
At practice, we switched around counts and formations for the millionth time in the span of a few days. It turns out that the unexpected sometimes works in your favor because the team received their highest score of the season during that competition.
I’ve never been more impressed by a group of teenagers than the ones I coach. They were determined to keep going even when life threw every curveball imaginable at them.
How To Stay Calm During Setbacks
So how do we train ourselves to stay calm in these types of situations? There are so many emotions that come up when something goes wrong: anger, frustration, heartbreak, fear, sadness.
All of these thoughts start to go through your mind like, “Should I just give up?” and “Was all of the hard work I put in for nothing?” It’s hard not to project blame on to someone else and dwell on how things “should” have been.
Instead of going into a downward spiral, here are a few things that can help when dealing with setbacks in your life:
1. Set Realistic Expectations
One of the ways you can prevent frustration to begin with is making sure you’re not expecting that everything will always go your way. Life has plans of its own, regardless of what your goals are. Though I’ll always be a planner by nature, I’ve learned that you have to prepare for the unexpected. Hope for the best, but recognize that you’ll never fully be in control of the process.
Related Post: 3 Tips to Tame Your Inner Control Freak
2. Sit With The Frustration
When you feel yourself start to freak out, it’s important to let yourself sit with your emotions in the moment. I don’t believe in pushing your emotions aside. Your emotions give you a better sense of what’s important to you and what you value. Give yourself a moment to gather yourself. Go outside. Tell whoever you’re with that you need a moment.
From there, let yourself accept the situation instead of dwelling on it. As humans, we tend to dwell on situations because we love the feeling of intense emotions whether we realize it or not. But when you dwell on things, it only intensifies the issue and gives power to the situation. Take back the power by creating awareness around your emotions and what’s happened rather than using your energy to blame others or yourself.
Related Post: Why Self-Awareness is Your Greatest Asset
3. Decide What’s Next
Sometimes it’s hard to think clearly when you’re dealing with a setback, but the quicker you can stop dwelling, the easier it becomes to see your next steps. Rather than resorting to giving up, think about what your options are. How can you move forward from this? Talk it out with others, whether it’s asking them for advice or simply asking if they’ll listen while you talk it out. Get it out of your system in some way. When it comes to making a decision, choose the option or route that will get you closer to your overall goal, even if it will take extra effort and time.
Related Post: 3 Tips for Becoming a Calmer Person
How do you stay calm when things don’t go to plan?
In the end, keeping your cool is about preparing for the unexpected, letting yourself sit with the situation, and making the decision to take the next step. I’d love to know if you have a story similar to mine when nothing went as planned. How did you handle the situation? What lessons did you learn? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
That reminded me of a situation I experienced a few weeks ago as I tried to tell the hospital I no longer need their service because I’m doing good and happy to see my local doctor and they were not listening to a word I said so it left me feeling anxious and fustrated about it. Thanks for the blog post it really made me think about how I respond to these situations.
I think setting Realistic Expectations makes things easier. Very informative post Catherine!
I just discovered your blog. Its beautiful and beneficial! I agree with the “Sit with the frustrations” point. I find it very helpful to examine what I am resistant to and come to a place of acceptance after sitting with it.
Hi Catherine, I went through a relatable situation today. A project for work ended up taking 3 times as long as I’d expected, and I was frustrated because I felt it wasted most of my day. I went for a walk, and starting blaming others in my mind, and just felt angry at the situation. So I took several deep breaths and just tried to be present without deterring thoughts. And then, something clicked and I said, “Well, that’s already happened. What can I do next to save the rest of my day?” Before I knew it, I had ideas, and then a plan.
I liked what you said about taking back the power because our minds subconsciously gravitate and linger in strong emotions. I would like to keep that in mind the next time something unexpected happens!
I love hearing this, Neelam (not the situation, but the solution you found haha). Recognizing that you have the power to move forward is huge xo
Loved reading your post. Quite insightful. Staying calm is a choice we make amidst the storms. It may not lead to the perfect scenario outside, but definitely saves us a lot of bitterness inside.
Hey catherine ,
i went through your blog specially the tips you talk about,that was so helpful.
thank you for this article.