Expect the Unexpected.
I have a guilty pleasure and that is watching the TV show Big Brother. The show has been around for 16 seasons so the players in every new season think they have the game figured out. The players have studied the show, mapped out a plan, and they enter the game with an expectation of how they will get to the end and win the monetary prize. The game has become fairly predictable, so the producers tried to shake things up in Season 16 with the theme “expect the unexpected”.
As silly as it sounds, I learned a few things watching this reality show about getting back on track when you are coasting along in life and then something knocks you off your track.
As the players entered the Big Brother house, they panicked when they found out about the theme. They immediately realized that any “plan” they had coming into the game was likely going to change. They were forced to feel uncomfortable and quickly accept a new mindset. They had to eliminate their tunnel vision of how to get to the end of the game and acknowledge that there are other paths to success. During the game, they were met with catastrophic incidents that challenged them to abandon plans and goals and create new goals along the way. They were forced to push past fear in order to keep their game moving forward.
After watching 16 seasons of the game, it is clear to me that the players that get to the end typically have a clear picture of what they want to accomplish and why, but they are also fearless, flexible and have an ability to modify their goals and plans along the way. These players don’t seem phased when their goals get derailed, they just regroup and find a new path to success.
When the unexpected happens.
Until a few weeks ago, I was plugging away at a year-long goal to get some sort of physical exercise every day. Despite the fact that I was still grieving the loss of my father and still physically healing from my eye cancer treatment, I was mostly successful. I was proud of my 150-day accomplishment. I was feeling stronger, healthier, and determined. I was happily chugging along on my exercise train until approximately 160 days into my goal when everything totally derailed.
Life circumstances completely stopped my train and I was devasted. First, our cat Cali crossed the rainbow bridge and I was incredibly sad. Then my mother-in-law became sick and passed away so we did quite a bit of traveling to California. Then very shortly after she passed I had a severe back injury happen out of nowhere and I was not walking. I was out of work for a week and my husband was out of town. I didn’t hurt my back exercising, I didn’t have a traumatic moment when I know I hurt myself, I just had sudden pain. My MRI shows disc degeneration, a few bones spurs, and a slipped disc all putting pressure on a nerve. It is almost four weeks after the injury and I am still in pain, and still waiting to recover enough to start physical therapy. The bottom line...pain and grief at the same time is not a good combination!
I knew I would experience some obstacles along the way during my year-long exercise goal. I even preplanned the challenges when I mapped out my goal in Start with the Why, End with the How. I even went as far as preplanning some solutions to get around potential obstacles and keep going. I thought I did everything right when I set up my goal. I followed the textbook formula and I followed a formula that has worked for me in the past. I wrote my goal down, I narrowed it to one thing, my goal was specific and measurable, I had a deadline, and I was very committed.
So why did my goal derail?
I didn’t plan for a crisis.
No one expects a crisis, therefore most don’t plan for extreme life challenges. I didn't plan for a cancer diagnosis, two deaths, and physical pain. I didn't plan for the unexpected. BIG MISTAKE. I assumed since I was committed and set my goal up properly, that I would stay in an upward trajectory and on a straight path to the finish line. I had an expectation to get to the end because I have done it before. Nothing stopped me during my One Year Booze Snooze, so why would I expect any different from my exercise sole goal.
I essentially had tunnel vision that there was only one way to the end.
I didn’t have an expectation to accept a crisis along the way a crisis that may change my journey.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean
So here I sit, still in pain and irritated, trying to figure out where to go from here. I can not and will not spiral into a pit of despair and destruction. I know that death and injury stopped me and caused me to fail, and while I should have expected those unexpected circumstances, I didn’t.
Getting back on track
Accept the failure. The first way to move forward is to accept that there is nothing I could have done to prevent my mother-in-law from passing or the disc in my back slipping, so there is no use in beating myself up over the failure.
Recognize that there is a difference between changing your mind and quitting. I didn’t quit. I am forced to change my mind and switch directions. Changing your mind is about being honest with yourself about your true desires and intentions. At this point, I know I am in too much pain to being committed to this specific long term goal. I know that in order to demonstrate perseverance and commitment to reach my health goals, I need to do something else.
Take time to regroup and rest. I am going to throw my 365-day timeline out the window and take time to completely reset. That means I will restart at day 1, but I can pick when day 1 will begin. Reflection takes time and patience and I will give myself enough time to thoughtfully develop a modified goal.
Go back to your why. When you have a setback it can be difficult to find the motivation to start again. I refuse to let this setback leave me derailed and demotivated. I need to go back to what made me start my goal in the first place. What was my reason for the change? What motivated me? I outlined many key motivators and benefits of my original goal in my post Start with the Why, End with the How. The exercise goal was designed to focus on perseverance, fighting cancer, changing my mindset, improving physical health and mental health, establishing routines, and being a good role model for my kids. My goal was going to have wonderful benefits in my life once I accomplished it, so I just need to think about how I can mimic that.
Eliminate tunnel vision. I know that there are other paths to success. I can walk again, but I know I can’t physically exercise. So what can I do? The “why” should still be the same, I just need to focus on a different way of getting there. Some possible ideas: focus on eating a set amount of calories/fats/proteins per day, eliminating certain food/s from my diet, take natural supplements every day, drink a set amount of water each day, walk 3-5 days per week, etc.
Focus on the process, not the destination. During my One Year Booze Snooze, I wrote about how the journey is the reward in the 100-day countdown. This exercise goal shouldn’t be any different. So there was a bump in the road. Who cares? I am learning about planning for a crisis and expecting the unexpected. I am learning that no one is successful all the time. I am learning how to be flexible instead of letting failure completely stop me. Even though I didn’t make it a full year, those teachings seem like a pretty big reward.
Like some of the Big Brother 16 players that figured out how to quickly switch gears when faced with an unexpected obstacle and modify their goals; I will figure out a way to turn some of the worst circumstances into a positive life change.