Kathy Murphy, Ph.D.

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How to Adjust When Life Takes Unexpected Turns

I spend my days writing, teaching and speaking to countless people about Designing Your Life. This is my passion and my purpose.  I love teaching people about having a vision for their lives and tools for bringing dreams into reality.  I can help you design a beautiful plan of empowered next steps that will keep you moving forward toward your destiny.  

But….what about when plans fall apart?  I had a plan, a deeply nurtured vision of how I was going to fulfill my dream – my heart’s calling. And it was a good plan.  I could see it clear as a bell and I was working it.  Then, out of the blue, out of nowhere, came  a sharp left turn. An unforeseen turn, an unasked-for redirection, and something I definitely hadn’t planned for. This week I’ve had to deal with best laid plans…..gone awry.

You know the old joke,

“If you want to make God laugh,

tell her your plans.”

My mentor, Marsh Engle, says as transformational teachers, our work evolves us.  And I think it’s true. I am always teaching what I am learning.    And sometimes, I am having to  revisit old lessons, ones that I keep having to learn over and over again.   This is an old lesson.  And I believe it’s a big lesson for all of us. Things change!

For me, when things change abruptly, I have a sucker punch reaction.  I feel sorta shell shocked, disoriented and frankly, pissed off.   One of my big dreams is that I will become more graceful in life as I grow older and wiser, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I still lose my peace of mind. And it takes me a while to regain it.

When life takes an unexpected turn, big or small, there are certain things you might want to remember to help you adjust:

1st.  Accept the mystery and the paradox of life by design.  It’s that beautiful old serenity prayer where we want the ability to discern the difference between the things we can and cannot change and what we simply need to accept.  There’s no wonder this is a prayer.

2nd.  Trust the process.  I teach (and I quess sometimes I even preach) about believing that life works exactly the way it is supposed to work and that there are no coincidences.  I teach to take each experience as just that, an experience, and as an opportunity to live life.  But that’s so much easier when life is going your way.  It takes more faith and discipline when you’re not getting what you want or you’ve been handed a raw deal. I must keep saying to myself,“Remember, Kathy, there are no mistakes!  And that life is always working in your favor, even when you can’t see it”.  Repeat.

3rd.  Accept your feelings.  So, I’m not as graceful as I’d like to be.  I still get very hurt, very disappointed, feel sorry for myself, and discouraged.  I can even go so far as to say “To hell with it.”  Yet, what I’ve come to know is that these are normal reactions to things gone awry. When we don’t get what we want or desire, we are hurt, disappointed, etc.  To deny this on the grounds of being a higher spiritual being isn’t true for me yet. I’m very human.  And being human, I’ve come to accept my feelings, no matter how messy, uncomfortable, unpleasant and painful as they may be.  But here’s the growth:  I’ve also come to know that feelings will pass…if I will let them.  Then I can recenter or reground myself and come back to a more spiritual and a higher perspective… after the pain passes.

4th.  Get on with it.  The trick is to not make the pain any worse or to stay there too long. The rule of thumb in my house is that I get 5 minutes to whine, kick or scream (though I must admit kicking and screaming don’t really help! I’m more of a whiner.)  As soon as I have settled down, gotten my wind back, and accepted the change the universe has offered up, it is simply time to get back in the game.  Okay, now what? Now is the time to process what this shift means in the overall picture.  And I must tell the truth here, as hard as it is to admit it,  more often than not, the dreaded and resisted change has often turned out better than my own original plan.

5th.  Keep trusting the process.  So we end up here again.  When change shows up unexpected, unrequested, and unwanted,  after  we have calmed down and gotten our breath back, keep repeating the deepest spiritual mantra of all…..trust the process.  Trust life.  Trust yourself.  Trust in God, your higher power and the universe to know what it’s doing.

I’ve decided to see where  my  unexpected turn is going to take me.  Now that I am over being upset, I’m actually kinda excited to see what it has to teach me about myself and my dreams. My bump in the road has actually turned out to be a motivator for me. After all the whining, I realized I am more committed than ever and more willing to follow whatever shows up for me and to trust that everything is just as it should be.  I am choosing to trust that this new unexpected turn is exactly the direction I need to go in.  Life may just be dreaming a bigger dream for me than I could have ever imagined!

Powerful Questions: (Comments below)

Remember a best laid plan that went awry.

What happened?  

How’d you handle it?

In the end, did you grow?


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One Response to “How to Adjust When Life Takes Unexpected Turns”

NN says:

Beautiful and I definitely agree that acceptance is the most important step. I think there are many cultural norms that make planning our lives seem like the only way to live. But as you mentioned, with age comes wisdom. I realized at 37 with my first child that some things just need to happen spontaneously or else we take our lives for granted.

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