Unexpected Plans - How to Get Back On Your Feet After Change

A man walks into a bar... 
He asks the bartender for a glass of water,
The bartender shoots a shotgun and completely misses the man,
The man thanks the bartender and leaves a tip.
Why the thank you and why the tip?
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Life has a way of mixing things up. We can make plans all we want yet something usually happens that changes the scene. 

It really comes down to our innate biological drive as humans to feel that we are in control, to have the feeling of safety that we have the final say in what will happen. Now, if you've ever spent any amount of time in college or in the "real world", you probably know this is not always the case.

We plan in advance and our optimism bias anticipates that the best scenario will occur; in and of itself, this isn't bad. Most can agree that planning ahead can be a good thing. However, too much of anything is typically bad for us. 

Unexpected events occur, such as a low class grade, financial issues, a program application rejection, or even discovery of new passions or interests. When these unexpected events occur, an unexpected plan must arise to handle the change of course. 

I think the anxiety and negative emotions that occur when something doesn't go as planned comes down to attachment to an idea vs. commitment to a goal. Let me explain:

When we are attached to an idea we cling to it and wholeheartedly believe it is the best and probably only way to reach what we want. When we are attached to an idea, we do not explore other options and may grow anxious when the idea does not work out the way we wanted. This makes us resistant to change.

For example, when I started my Biomedical Sciences degree, I was attached to the idea that in order to go to medical school I had to only do medical activities (e.i. shadowing, only taking Biology classes, volunteering at a hospital, etc.). Had it not been for a mentor, I would have never had the opportunity to work in research, explore health policy, add a minor in Psychology or even to start Student Scientists. Looking back, each of these has been an amazing experience I would not change. Yet, I was so attached to my idea of only medical activities that it took a time of hardship to make me reconsider and take the time to look at other opportunities to grow in my field.

On the other hand, commitment to a goal means you are determined to reaching the goal regardless of the path. Recently, I met with a mentee who illustrated this perfectly. She was born in Korea to missionary parents who went on to live in Mexico and Spain before moving to the United States. While in the U.S., she completed a Bachelors of Science degree in Music Performance and Public Relations and then served in the military for some years.

Now, she has realized that she has a passionate calling for medicine. After meeting with her, it was clear that she was genuinely committed to the goal of becoming a doctor. She demonstrated that she knew she was going to be a doctor someday. Though she may not have had the traditional background, she is willing to do what it takes.

So, when unexpected events occur, and you find yourself needing an unexpected plan, remember to be committed to the goal not attached to the idea.

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And to answer the opening riddle:
The man had the hiccups.
So, we may not get what we want, but maybe we'll get what we need.