Breaking News Bar
updated: 6/4/2013 11:50 AM

When Life Doesn't Work out the Way You Want: Create Plan B

Success - Article sent! close
Felice Block, M.A., LCPC

"Life is All About How you Handle Plan B

Plan A is always my first choice.

You know, the one where

Everything works out to be

Happily ever-after.

But more often than not,

I find myself dealing with

The upside-down, inside-out version --

Where nothing goes as it should.

It's at this point that the real

Test of my character comes in..

Do I sink, or do I swim?

Do I wallow in self pity and play the victim,

Or simply shift gears

And make the best of the situation?

The choice is all mine...

Life is all about how you handle Plan B."

Suzy Toronto

What do you do when Plan A falls apart? Do you get angry, frustrated, depressed or resentful? Read on to understand why we get so attached to our plans and healthier ways to cope when plans fail.

Plan A can be a mere fleeting fantasy or a very well detailed path towards some goal. Plans can be conscious or unconscious. For example, John has a goal to be a perfect employee. John did not realize this until his therapist pointed it out to him. He is striving for perfection. Since perfection is impossible, he feels intense frustration, anxiety and always questions his ability. He fears he will be fired even though his evaluations are outstanding. He sees his co-workers as slackers and gets frustrated that they don't work hard enough. Those co-workers sense his judgment and don't like John very much. Here's another example--Jessie is a college student who plans to go onto grad school. She's wanted to be a lawyer her entire life. Her father has been paying for college until his sudden death which left the family financially unstable and unable to finance Jessie's schooling. After Jessie gets out of shock and grieves, she will have to come up with a plan B.

According to Dr. Alfred Adler, people create psychological goals in order to predict life, people and the world around us. We make a "blueprint" for living that drives our choices, behavior and interactions with others. Much to our dismay, mitigating factors often occur that interfere with our blueprint. The economy fails, there's a natural disaster, you have a health failure, etc. We may become discouraged, angry sometimes depressed when life doesn't go as expected. People who are more flexible with their goals are more resilient and therefore fare better when their plans are botched.

So what's a person to do when plan A doesn't work? Here are some suggestions:

~Stay as calm as possible. Meditate, pray, do yoga, run, exercise, engage in healthy activity that soothes you.

~Refrain from impulsive reactivity. Make new plans that are well thought through.

~Change your negative thoughts to positive ones. As simplistic as it may sound, positive thinking leads to positive outcomes.

~Identify your feelings. Work through them by talking to a trusted friend or journal them. Cry if you are sad. If you are angry, punch a pillow, a punching bag or write out your anger. Then tear the paper into tiny pieces.

~Focus on what's going well in your life. Write a gratitude list and reread it as many times as you need to begin feeling more positive.

~Grieve for your failed plan. Put your plan down on a small piece of paper and crumble it up. Fill a balloon with the crumbled up paper, blow up the balloon and watch it fly away!

~If you believe in a higher power, rely on your higher power's choice for you. Have faith your plan was not right for you. A new and better path will become clear to you.

~Do research when you're ready to develop a new plan. This can be formal research about your new ideas or informal conversations with people about ideas and suggestions for a new plan.

~Brainstorm new alternatives with someone you trust. Identify which alternative feels positive to you and then create an action plan to implement and evaluate your new choice.

~ If you experience intense feelings for more than two weeks related to the failed plan and/or you are having difficulty functioning with daily tasks, are unusually irritable or depressed, seek counseling. For more information on how counseling can help go to

Life is full of the unpredictable. It doesn't have to be devastating when things don't go the way you'd like. You can be flexible and resilient. If you find yourself stuck or in despair about the failed plan, don't be afraid to ask for help.

May you be resilient and learn to go with the flow of life's twists and turns.

Felice Block, M.A., LCPC

Help with Healing from Heart Ache

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

professional speaker, clinical supervisor, counselor educator

EMDR Certified

Clinical Member, American Association for Marriage & Family Therapists