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How to cope when life turns out different than you planned

when life turns out different than you planned
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When life turns out different than you planned, it can make you feel like a failure.

For example, I decided at a young age to be a writer. But when I graduated and started to send out queries and get published, the alienation and isolation of the writing life took a toll.

I pushed writing to the backburner and took a regular job instead. I kept my writing on life support rather than giving it the care and attention it deserved.

If you can relate to disappointment when life turns out different than you planned, here are 3 ways to cope and move forward.

1. Avoid blaming others.

When life turns out different than you planned you have two choices. You can externalize by blaming other people or things. Or you can internalize by looking at yourself.

Internalizing when life turns out different than you planned means looking at yourself and what you did or didn’t do that made your life go off track.

To be honest, I’ve done a combination of externalizing and internalizing. The truth is, due to my trauma history, I lacked the tools to seek out necessary support to pursue my dreams.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it was me who decided to abandon myself this way. If you blame others when life turns out different than you planned you give away control.

You create resentments that make it hard to move forward and that disempower you. They keep you mired in regret from the past.

The solution is not to blame yourself but to acknowledge that you made decisions based on the information you had at the time.

You made choices from a place of poor boundaries and a lack of self-compassion. You were probably in abandonment mode and did not know it.

You made choices from a place of poor boundaries and a lack of self-compassion. You were probably in abandonment mode and did not know it. Click To Tweet

The people who failed to support you had issues of their own. Their own trauma made them behave in ways that were neither supportive nor helpful. They were trying to survive just like you.

2. Forgive yourself.

when life turns out different than you planned

When life turns out different than you planned, shame can compound grief and disappointment.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than when children abandon or reject you. I know many mothers, including myself, who don’t have the relationship with our children we hoped for.

When we feel shame over something like deficits in our parenting, our first impulse is denial. Feeling like we failed our children hurts so much we’d rather deny it.

I learned to forgive myself for my shortcomings as a parent rather than push away those feelings of inadequacy. My job is to make my children feel seen and heard, not to absorb blame or shame.

It’s okay to feel guilty about ways we may have harmed others. That’s only until we make amends, move forward, and forgive ourselves.

Don’t let your children or anyone else continue to flog you. You deserve respect and kindness just like they do. If you refuse to give it to yourself, others will sense that and refuse to give it to you, too.

3. Learn from the past

A mid-life crisis is a response to disappointment when life turns out different than you planned. A crisis is only a bad thing when it’s faced dishonestly and covered up with something like a new sports car.

We can use a crisis instead to confess we haven’t lived the life we’ve wanted. Or that we’ve given up too much for others.

We can use a mid-life crisis to confess we haven't lived the life we've wanted. Or that we've given up too much for others. Click To Tweet

We can use that time to reflect on what we can do differently to create better outcomes in our lives. For instance, an empty nest provides time to read and recover from past trauma.

We can look back at the patterns in our lives and discover what served us and what didn’t. For example, I’ve been learning how much childhood trauma impacts our adult choices.

I’m discovering the subconscious reasons I’ve held myself back. The way family scapegoating has made me take on more than my share of blame and responsibility. This was my way of trying to earn goodness.

I talk about this and many more lessons from my journey in the new ebook, “It’s Not Your Fault: Subconscious Reasons We Self-Sabotage and How to Stop ” available here.

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