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Be Flexible with Changes in Your Plans

Posted Aug 18 2011 9:41am

Every now and then I dust of my copy of one of the all time best sellers Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff , by Richard Carlson. Sadly, I just learned he passed away in 2006. When I read that quick chapter, I’ll always come across a real gem. This time it was #65, Be Flexible with Changes in Your Plans. As an ADD’er, we typically lack a little flexibility some times and need to step out of the box. I work on that, and this chapter was a great reminder to not sweat the small stuff, enjoy!

“Once I get something in my mind (a plan), it can be tricky to let go of it and go with the flow. I was taught, and to some degree it’s certainly true, that success, or successfully completing a project, requires perseverance. At the same time, however, inflexibility creates an enormous amount of inner stress and is often irritating and insensitive to other people. I like to do the majority of my writing in the wee hours of the morning. I might have the goal, in this book for example, to complete one or two strategies before anyone else in the house wakes up. But what happens if my four-year-old wakes up early and walks upstairs to see me? My plans have certainly been altered, but how do I react? Or, I might have the goal to go out for a run before going to the office. What happens if I get an emergency call from my office and have to skip my run? There are countless potential examples for all of us – times when our plans suddenly change, something we thought was going to take place doesn’t, someone doesn’t do what they said they would do, you make less money than you thought you would, someone changes your plan without your consent, you have less time than previously planned, something unexpected comes up – and on and on it goes. The question to ask yourself is, what’s really important?

We use the excuse that it’s natural to feel frustrated when our plans change. That depends, however, on what your priorities are. Is it more important to stick to some rigid writing schedule to be available to my four-year-old? Is missing a thirty-minute run worth getting upset over? The more general question is, “What’s more important, getting what I want and keeping my plans, or learning to go with the flow?” Clearly, to become a more peaceful person, you must prioritize being flexible over rigidity most of the time (obviously there will be exceptions). I’ve also found it helpful to expect that a certain percentage of plans will change. If I make allowances in my mind for this inevitability, then when it happens, I can say, “Here is one of those inevitabilities.”You’ll find that if you create the goal to become more flexible, some wonderful things will begin to happen. You’ll feel more relaxed, yet you won’t sacrifice any productivity. You may become even more productive, because you won’t need to expend so much energy being upset and worried. I’ve learned to trust that I will keep my deadlines, achieve most of my goals, and honor my responsibilities despite the fact that I may have to alter my plans slightly (or even completely). Finally, the people around you will be more relaxed too. They won’t feel like they have to walk around on eggshells if, by some chance, your plans have to change.”

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