What is the thing I most love about my job? I never know what is going to happen.
What is the thing I hate the most about my job? I never know what is going to happen.
Dealing with the unexpected is the bread and butter of life. At its best, it can be awesome. For example, about a year ago, after Alabama was hit by some really tornadoes, we gathered up a crew to head out there and staff up some restaurants in towns where there was no power, no water, and nowhere to eat. Hooked up generators, got the place going, and started serving breakfast to hundreds and hundreds of hungry people.
At its worst, sometimes I have to deal with theft, drunk or belligerent customers, power outages, and of course, all of the things that may impact the lives of my employees.
Dealing with the unexpected can be stressful. So for me, there are two possible questions. First, can I manage the rate of the unexpected so it doesn’t suck? Or, second, can I be prepared enough to deal with the unexpected so that it doesn’t throw me.
The first is what I think many of us unconsciously attempt to do. The unexpected makes us uncomfortable, adds stress, and generally makes life difficult. So we try to arrange our lives in such a way that unexpected things can’t happen.
Guess what? Doesn’t work. Nope. Unexpected things are going to happen anyway. And we’re going to be more stressed about them than ever. Even worse, by closing off the opportunity of the unexpected, we also lose the good side as well. You might structure your life in a way that reduces the stressful unexpected, but you also will close yourself to the opportunity of positive unexpected events.
So, instead, the better option is simply to be better prepared and ready to embrace the unexpected when it happens. The question is, how do you manage that?
Here’s my thoughts:
- Manage your expectations. Buddhists believe that much of the unhappiness in the world is essentially due to having expectations that are not met. So, reduce your expectations? If you expect a nice calm easy day at work, and end up with a crazy busy day instead, you can either choose to embrace the chaos and stand up to it, or you can focus on how it sucks. Same day. Same events. Different expectations.
- Be prepared. This is one thing the Boy Scouts have right. You don’t know what’s coming this evening, tomorrow or next week or next year. Be prepared to deal with it. In my personal financial life, that means eliminating debt, and getting a cash reserve in the bank to deal with life’s unexpected little horrors. In my work life, that means keeping in place the tools I need to deal with power outages, sudden extra rushes of business, or whatever might come. Keep a first aid kit stocked, extra food in the pantry, and cash on hand somewhere.
- Be flexible and ready to accept change when it happens. Someone calls out sick? I’m ready to prioritize, reorganize, and keep moving forward. When something unexpectedly bad happens, instead of moping around, it’s far better to sit down, reassess the reality of the situation (as opposed to your internal image of what the situation was going to be), prioritize your response, then take action.
How do you deal with unexpected change? Do you have strategies that work? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.