Success appears in countless shapes and forms. Achievements, acquisitions, accolades, awards—and those tap only the letter A. Yet when we consider success as it relates to building a new life plan, it’s more rewarding to treat it as an inner process toward worthy goals rather than as a destination.
Years of listening to people’s stories remind me that life rarely presents itself as a tidy Plan A. Instead, it likely unfolds in a series of disruptions, some grand, others benign, and yet others, downright rude. Rewarding jobs, a new home, marriage or retirement, maybe even illness—the road typically includes a collection of reworks. Each change, whether planned or unexpected, comes with an invitation to create a rewarding new story, a Plan B.
Plans get waylaid, but we don’t have to do the same
It’s so easy to drift through life paying scant attention to our surroundings. One day we’re twenty-two charging out to join the flow. The next, time has moved forward, though we might not have done the same. Or, plans got knocked off kilter, and we find ourselves pondering the past and gingerly eyeing the future
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am,” says Parker J. Palmer in his wise and compassionate guide, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the voice of vocation. When you find yourself stuck in an unsustainable place or when the wind of change sends you sailing in a new direction, stop. Take a deep breath and listen to life whispering to you.
Don’t equate personal assets with job skills
Creating a Plan B begins with evaluating your beliefs and paying attention. This means taking an honest inventory of your assets, which differ from job skills. Let go of resistance. Try to see this change of direction as an invitation to tap your resourcefulness. Let it expand your resilience and courage. Are you adaptable? Are you forgiving? Are you self-accepting? Think of a pending shift in direction as an open door, an opportunity to grow in creativity, compassion and self-confidence.
No matter if you feel safe and secure or stuck and clinging by your fingernails, explore where you’ve been and where you really want to go. What matters most? What do you want to contribute? What do you want to leave behind?
We live in difficult times with no shortage of bad news and excruciating discord. Yet each of our lives matters. It makes no difference if you teach school, direct a choir, care for children, practice law, volunteer at a food shelf, or run a Fortune 500 company, your life matters. Assessing your gifts and paying attention can help you clarify your vision for a rewarding next chapter.
Mary Farr is the author of The Promise in Plan B: What We Bring To The Next Chapter In Our Lives