“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.” -James A. Yorke

You are frustrated because they cancelled the show you bought the tickets for six months ago.  You don’t get the promotion you’ve been dreaming of since you came to this company.  The proposal you sent to your ideal client which is going to double your income this year, is turned down.  Is the universe ganging up on you?  Nope.  You just need a Plan B.

Plan B

I recently traveled to New England on business and pleasure.  I ended up with several Plan B moments.  I was staying on the 17th floor of the Hartford Hilton.  The fire alarm went off at midnight.  Sleep was Plan A.  Descending 17 flights of stairs on foot was Plan B. I was staying at my friend’s beautiful country home (in the middle of nowhere in the Berkshires) and planned on writing while there.  There was a thunderstorm that plowed in overnight. Phone and wifi were dead.  Plan A was writing.  Plan B was having a lovely day long conversation with my friend.  I missed a connecting flight at Washington Reagan airport.  Making the connection was Plan A.  Walking 10,000 steps in Terminal C was Plan B.  The important thing was being open to Plan B.

 

This is how I remained open to Plan B:

 

  • Keep the goal in mind.  I’ve retold the story of taking 17 flights of stairs and more than one person told me, I think I would have just stayed in the hotel room.  Truth is I didn’t smell smoke but in a 22-story hotel, how could I possible know what was above me.  The goal was avoiding participating in a fire and if trudging 17 flights kept me safe, then that’s the goal.  Getting home safely was the goal when I missed the connection in DC.  It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of a change of plans but if you focus on the end goal it calms the anxiety.

 

  • Know where your essentials are.  When a fire alarm goes off and there is an annoying strobe light to accompany it, it’s disorienting.  I tried to turn the light on next to my bed.  It didn’t go on.  I thought the electricity was out.  Fortunately, when I fumbled over to the desk lamp it worked. But I had no idea where my sneakers and glasses were.  Having shoes and glasses were essential.  During the thunderstorm two nights later and the lights flickered, I made sure I had my glasses and shoes next to my bed.  Socks?  Laptop? Nope. Not essential. So in a work situation if you end up not having an LCD projector, use a flip chart.  If you don’t have a flip chart, have someone take notes on paper.  Figure out what’s essential.

 

  • Label the feeling.  I was sitting in the last row of the plane when we finally pulled close to the gate and making my connecting flight was very present in my mind.  I had a ton of anxiety and, frankly, I was angry that we were sitting 10 feet from the gate but were not actually “at” the gate with the door open.  I consciously sat in my seat and thought, this is what anger feels like.  My forehead is hot and my stomach is clenched.  OK.  And this is what anxiety feels like.  My stomach is flipping and my throat is tight.  OK.  I sat there inventory-ing my feelings as they arose and labeling them.  I was able to witness the feelings instead of getting sucked into them. Labeling the feeling keeps you from stuffing it away as well.  Let it rise and vanish as you consider each one.  If you take anything from this post, work on labeling your feelings; it will keep you from getting sucked into them.

 

  • A plausible alternative.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, I try and imagine that they are headed to the hospital on an emergency.  When I was sitting in the back row of the plane, I decided it must be some safety issue and the plane couldn’t pull up to the door.  When the client I sent a proposal to doesn’t respond,  I imagine my offer ended up in their spam folder.  Better reach out by phone.  A coach friend of mine, Michele Woodward, recommends that you reach out to a potential client three times.  That’s a great rule of thumb.  With smart phones and bulging email inboxes, the world is a giant distraction.  It takes patience and persistence to get through the clutter.  Assume that they want to get back to you, they are just overwhelmed.  There is always a plausible alternative or explanation.

 

  • What opportunity is available.  When I realized I missed my connection and had four hours to kill, I decided that I could listen to my book on Audible and walk 10,000 steps.  I’m not sure there weren’t a few folks who saw me walking by them 15 times who didn’t think I might be lost or a lunatic but here was an opportunity to get a few hours of my book done and get in 10,000 steps.  The opportunity in Hartford was seeing some thirty Hartford firefighters.  These guys were there to potentially save my life.  What bravery.  They do this every day.  Run in while we run out.  I don’t have the opportunity to see that every day.  The opportunity in the Berkshires without wifi?  Isn’t it obvious.  20 hours without social media and email and phone.  Priceless.  All I need is a good friend and a dog and the opportunities are endless.

 

I’ve always had my father as an example of patience.  I have always admired his unflappability.  Whether it was a flat tire or a teenager changing their mind with Friday night plans, “Daddy, can you drive me and my friends to bowling instead of playing Monopoly at home?”  I try and tap into his patience when I face my Plan B. Tools help.

6 Tactics to Turning Over a New Leaf

This is the time of year where many folks start gathering up their New Year’s resolutions.   We start putting together the list that will cure all our ills and bad habits.  We decide it’s time to turn over a new leaf.  Lose 50 pounds, quit smoking, get out of debt.  Pick your leaf.  You might be ready to tear up that leaf by the second week of February.  You’ll be sore from that new exercise regime, or blow $100 on that new Thai restaurant, or break out the plastic again.  Why can’t we stick to the same leaf…new or otherwise?

 

There is a lot of scientific evidence that is available now to help show you the way.  If you really think it through and set up a plan, you can succeed.  There are ways to anticipate the self sabotage. To be one step ahead of yourself and anticipate a few faltering steps.  If you understand your willpower and can short circuit your “auto-pilot”, there is hope that you can achieve your greatest desires.  You can succeed in turning over that leaf. 6 Tactics to Turning Over a New Leaf

Here are some tactics:

1. More.  It is much easier to get behind the concept of more versus less.  Drink more water versus drink less soda.  Exercise more versus eat less.  It is so much easier to say, “Yeah, I ran more miles this week than last.”  But how do you know if you ate less, without meticulous logging of every calorie?  Even in the during performance reviews, it’s so much easier to ask someone to do more of something than less.   Frame your goal as something you want to do more of.

2. Identity.  Kelly McGonigal in her book “The Willpower Instinct” calls this your “Want Power”.  Think about how you want to identify with yourself.  It’s not that you want to save more as much as you want to see yourself as a “financially stable” person.  So when you make choices, you see yourself in the condition you are aspiring to.  So, if you identify with being a long distance runner, you aren’t likely to stop at McDonalds.

3.  Plan B.  Make sure you have a back up plan when hunger, stress and fatigue kick in.  These will happen.  Maybe not the first day, but at some point, you will be standing in the check out line at the Piggly Wiggly, a half hour late for your Zumba class, starving to death and that York/Reeses/Milky Way/(fill in your favorite candy) will be calling your name.  There are times when making a good choice will be impossible.  Your willpower is at its brink.   Pick the “regular size” versus the “king size” bar; choose gum or a bottle of water.  Pick a new default when your back is against the wall.

4. Schedule.  I’ve been a Franklin Covey Facilitator for several years.  One of the principles that has always been espoused in their “Focus” and “7 Habits ” courses is to schedule the big rocks.  The big rocks are the important goals in your life.  Whether it is training for a marathon, a happier marriage or being financially stable, if you schedule time in advance, you are much likelier to actually show up.  So plan a date with your partner, schedule ten miles for Saturday morning or spend Sunday afternoon working on your business plan.  Scheduling it will ensure that it happens.

5. Imagine temptation.  Envision your worst case scenario.  What bump in the road is likely to show up in the first week or so?  Birthday cake at work during your first week of your fitness plan: imagine yourself emailing that you have a conflicting meeting and turn it down.  You’re running late to your child’s concert and the only choice is fast food: imagine yourself ordering a salad and bottle of water.  Visualizing “the higher path” will help you actually follow through.

6. Compassion.  Forgiving yourself for any slip ups is critical.  Assume before you start that you will.  Because you will.  There are vacations, snowstorms, fires to put out and sick babysitters.  Showing yourself compassion is critical.  If you know that you can forgive yourself, you are much more likely to be successful in the long term.  Take care of your inner dictator.

All these steps involve taking the long view.  Pick the leaf that is most important (don’t pick a whole pile) and pull your full attention to it.  Imagine your future self. Make decisions based on their best interest. When you don’t–and there will be times when you don’t–practice forgiveness.  When you are successful with the first leaf, there will be will be others to take on.