If life has taught me anything it’s not to get too comfortable with where I am or the path I’ve mapped out for the future, because no one goes untouched by bumps in the road or unexpected detours.
But just because we hit an unforeseen turn of events doesn’t mean we are powerless because we have a choice how to respond, and where that takes us will always come down to attitude.
The more rigid and invested we are in our expectations the tougher it’s going to be to find solutions or see opportunities for growth.
No journey through life follows a straight and predictable path. There will always be wrong turns, surprises, and lots of bumps along the way. Learning to embrace these challenges makes life interesting, but overcoming them makes life meaningful.
Of course, detours come in all shapes and sizes, and there is a big difference between dealing with everyday disruptions like encountering a traffic jam on the way to the airport or a flat tire and suddenly finding yourself facing a medical crisis, without a job, or dealing with the end of an important relationship.
I’ve been there on all counts and what has made the difference goes beyond positive thinking and the belief that I will handle whatever challenges may come my way.
There is also a finely tuned sense of adventure.
Now bear with me. I admit this may sound trivial but believe it or not there are some pretty significant benefits to cultivating a sense of adventure. It helps you learn to make the most of uncertain circumstances, and more importantly, it fosters the ability to get creative and think on your feet.Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure. Click To Tweet
This is way bigger than simply getting out of your comfort zone.
When we treat life as an adventure we accept the value of actively seeking out new experiences to enlarge our capacity to thrive through life’s challenges.
A Little Story On the Unpredictable Nature of Detours
I’d been working as the director of sales and marketing for a regional visitor attraction for nearly 5 years when the company hired a new general manager. I got along with him better than most, but he was a very unpleasant man and since I’d been thinking about a change in careers anyway I decided it was time to make the move.
I crafted a generous and very precise plan that included a one month notice, completing the new marketing plan and budget, finishing some important projects and organizing an introduction to key industry contacts for the new director.
It was a good plan. Too bad the general manager didn’t see it that way.
He turned a lovely shade of red and in his typical booming voice told me that he considered my resignation to be a personal betrayal and if I didn’t want to work for him, he didn’t want me there. So I was given half an hour to box up my things and since I drove a company car the assistant manager would take me home.
So an hour later there I stood all alone in my driveway like a little lost soul surrounded by boxes watching my only transportation speed way.
Not at all how I had imagined the day would go, but then that’s the nature of detours.
I admit it, this was a blow to my ego and in short order, the mental reruns and second guessing began… could I have handled it better, what will people say about my abrupt departure, and what will I do for the next month without a job?
And I hadn’t even left the driveway yet!
But by morning my sense of adventure had kicked in and I was busy moving forward. I’d decided to use the time to stretch myself and see how many new experiences I could cram into the next month. The first thing I did was buy the cutest white Jeep Wrangler, then I put the word out that I was available to take on a few short term marketing projects.
Within a few days, I had half a dozen jobs lined up, including crafting a marketing plan for a large flower farm located on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala. It didn’t pay as much as the other projects, but the scenery was breathtaking, I learned a lot about how a flower farm operates and one of the perks was free flowers!
Nothing that happened during that month was part of any plan, but it turned out to be one of my favorite detours (so far) because instead of wasting time bemoaning the disruption I chose to make it an adventure.
It’s About Building Capacity
There is no switch you can flip to become more confident, resilient or proficient at managing unexpected life changes. It’s a process, and that process involves building your capacity.
In other words, it’s about gradually increasing your ability to make the most of whatever challenges you may find yourself facing in life.
To understand how capacity building affects you in general and managing unexpected detours in particular, let’s take the example of decision-making.
The process of becoming a confident decision maker is like building muscle. It takes time and learning to make decisions that are based on more than just getting through today, they take into account the future you want to create for yourself.
Through this process of learning and gradually taking on more challenging issues, you are building your capacity to become a confident decision-maker, a critical skill to have in your tool chest for managing change.
Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation; successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.
And this brings us back to learning to embrace unexpected detours.
First and foremost it’s about attitude, the willingness to become intentional about how you live your life and accepting that no matter how well you plan there will be surprises along the way.
Whether this is the first time you’ve given any thought to managing change, or you want to develop more confidence in the process, the first step is to identify your current behavior.
How do you cope with surprises and unexpected change?
- Do you become stressed?
- Do you panic?
- Do you get flustered?
- Do you become angry?
- Do you become stuck unable to take action?
Understanding how you react to unexpected or unwelcome change now will give you a starting point so that you can take the initiative and begin challenging yourself to introduce small changes and even occasional adventures into your life.
This is not to say that some detours won’t be sad, frustrating or even life-altering. There will be detours that are, and it may well be that our biggest opportunity for growth within these events will be learning to accept and express our own emotions.
The greatest joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letter along the way.
Sometimes a detour introduces you to new ideas or a path you never considered before. Other times it may open your eyes to the realization of what (and who) matters most to you in life.
There’s so much life has to offer and most of us barely scratch the surface. Learning to make the most of unexpected detours by really experiencing them is part of the adventure of living life to the fullest!
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.