The Secret to Embracing Life’s Unexpected Detours

Written by on April 18, 2017 in Adaptability, Self Awareness with 18 Comments



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.

Deep breath.

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 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.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Suzie Cheel

    Have had lots of those over the past few years and I think too often i have allwed then to let them take me off track and question my whys!
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Couch To London Marathon In 12 MonthsMy Profile

  2. Jen Monks

    I need to learn to embrace unexpected detours a little more. I am a scheduler by nature. This means, of course, that unplanned or unexpected obstacles frustrate me. Gotta learn to go with the flow and make the most of what could be a difficult situation.
    Jen Monks recently posted…How Diversity in the Boardroom is Boosting Employee MoraleMy Profile

  3. Kimba

    “Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation; successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” LUV this!
    Kimba recently posted…In Praise of Limited AccessMy Profile

  4. Sushmita

    Life like you said never goes as per you plans and that’s why we say we must have a backup always.
    I have been in a situation from where finding back up was difficult for me, however, I’m glad I never gave up on what I had begun and still continue my quest for fulfilling the dreams I have seen for myself with my open eyes.
    Thank you for your words of wisdom each week which push us ahead to and provide the motivation we need!
    Sushmita recently posted…How to not let your dreams and ideas slip away like sand!My Profile

  5. Vatsala Shukla

    Sometimes, ‘things’ happen to us so we can move on to what is really meant for us, Marquita.

    Your experience reminded me of the time I was working for one of the Big 4 in Poland who were getting rid of the expats because the Head Office decided to cut costs.

    I was working on a secondment and bringing in lots of money for the firm when I was told that I was to be let go of in 30 days but had to continue at the client site. I was in tears when I arrived at the client’s office and met the MD on the stairs. He was and still is a perceptive person and when i told him what had happened, he offered me a permanent job on the stairs and referred me to the company lawyer to press charges of discrimination so I could get a proper compensation!

    It all worked out well – I had a better job as a director, got some compensation and found a mentor with whom I’m in regular touch even after 20 years. Come to think of it, I hated the old job but didn’t have the courage to quit. 🙂
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Feeling Angry? Go for BlueMy Profile

  6. I love your blog because of the story and I believe attitude can overcome anything and shift negative into positive. I have seen patients that were labeled “terminal” survive because of their positive attitude toward healing.

  7. Erica says:

    Wow, I want to work on a flower farm! That sounds amazing!

    In 2009, I lost both my jobs within a month and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. All these led me to take an extended visit to New York, which led to my dating my now husband. And while it wasn’t all good (my mother passed away) that time resulted in many positive changes in my life. Even though I felt devastated when it hit. I’ll try to remember your advice the next time something that initially seems horrible hits.
    Erica recently posted…Restaurant Temptation: Stay On Your Diet While Eating Out!My Profile

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Eric! As I tried to get across when I talked about capacity, the process of responding to life’s bumps and detours is less about remembering to do it and more about the response becoming a part of who you are. Those who are highly resilient experience hardships just like anyone else, the difference is they recover faster because they refuse to be defined by circumstances. 🙂

  8. Mark

    Wow M!

    You certainly have demonstrated, how to effectively embrace and
    prosper from some of life’s totally unexpected detours!

    The way you brilliantly responded to your former employer’s outrageously bad behavior, is an excellent case study in how to view potential negatives through an entirely different lens!

    And I love the perk the flower farm through in, as a direct result of you temporarily being their project director! And your quote was truly inspiring and enlightening! Thanks for sharing another extremely helpful and inspiring post!
    Mark recently posted…Why Your Small Business Should Take Advantage Of Under Used And Or Dead Assets!Part FiveMy Profile

  9. William Rusho

    I like the statement “Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure.” When you think about it, everything we do, or has been done to us, can be viewed either positively or in a negative light.
    When something happens to you, you have two choices. Be happy, or be miserable. It’s going to happen anyways, so you might as well enjoy the ride, I am sure your friends and family will enjoy you better too.

  10. Love this post and the comments from Doreen & Phoenicia.
    Marty, when I quit my last corporate job, like you I provided a very professional 5 weeks notice, given the position I held. The GM was so angry that I would dare quit (to pursue my writing, not like I left for another corporate job) that he steamed in the next day and told me to get out on Friday. Just a tad better than leave at the same time.
    At first I was pretty upset, but then I made the most of it before taking off on the trip I had planned.

    So, I’m with you–rolling with what comes at you is the best approach. Bemoaning it won’t change a single thing–it will just keep you stuck.

    • I think it’s interesting how different people react when someone chooses to leave a job. When I left my previous job they threw a huge party for me and even held a group prayer for my health and success before I left … which is no doubt why I’m still good friends with many of them to this day. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation RoseMary! 🙂

  11. Hi Marty. I love this post. It reminds me of a trip I took to Greece with my husband in 1996. We had taken a mule ride to the top of the mountain and stopped for a drink and snack. While we were enjoying a beer, we saw the mules making their way down the hill! I ran out, asking the fellow what was going on and he told me the mules had quit for the day due to the heat. We had to walk down the mountain to get back to our boat. My husband cursed every step of the way. But in the morning, he said he wouldn’t have missed the adventure for the world even though at the time he referred to it as a horrific ordeal! It’s all about perception.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…in search of Quebec City chocolateMy Profile

    • What a terrific story Doreen, and you are so right about the role perception plays in our lives. If you think about it everything we experience we see through the filters of our perceptions. Thank you so much for contributing to the converstion. 🙂

  12. Phoenicia

    This has encouraged me immensely Marquita.

    We do not know the challenges and obstacles we will go on to face. Some may appear to steer away from the direction in which we choose to go but just bring us down a different route. Planning is vital in life but I have learnt we must allow for a little flexibility. Difficult for the likes of me who are rather rigid and systematic in the way they do things!

    It is often in the most challenging times that we realise how much strength we have.

    I enjoyed reading the outcome of your experience of having to walk away from your job. I cannot imagine the stress you felt back then but you walked into a life so much more suited to you. How often do we choose to stay put for fear of the unknown? How often do we turn down opportunities assuming they are not for us?

    Thank you!
    Phoenicia recently posted…Perception versus realityMy Profile

    • I am so glad you found value in my article Phoenicia and I love your thoughtful insights. That was surely a period in my life when I truly felt the full effect of the roller coaster ride of life! But there was another tidbit related to that story I decided not to share because it didn’t relate to the topic.

      Two weeks into my month of adventure I received a call from the owner of the company who lives in Israel. When he heard what happened, he fired the general manager and because he also drove a company car the assistant manager deposited him in his driveway just as he had done to me only a couple of weeks earlier. They asked me to come back but I’d already planned my shift in career and by that time I was fully in forward motion so I declined, but I did feel much better about my relationship with the company. 🙂

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