From the time we are little, we are taught that if we want to make a change the first step is to make a plan on how we are going to do so. When I coach women, however, I ask them to define where they are going before they make the plan to get there.
It’s like a vacation, I tell them. You have to know if you are packing for Alaska or Hawaii before you start packing and mapping your route to get there.
I have all sorts of tips and tools in my bag of tricks to help women define the “where” and they have decades of training in how to create a plan, so we’re generally good to go for a few weeks. That is, until the plan doesn’t work out and they walk into the SheHive with tears in their eyes, ready to give up - convinced they’ve failed because the plan didn’t work.
But here’s the thing - the plan not working IS the plan working.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
You can’t possibly know what you don’t already know, so your plan is only a best guess of what you think you need to get where you think you are going. The best laid plan can only point you in a general direction. Your job, once on the path, is to listen and watch closely for the clues that you need to pivot.
The Killer That Kills
The Mister and I just got back from a 4,600 mile road trip out West. I had everything mapped out perfectly - how many hours we would drive each day, where we would stay each night and where we would stop in-between each day to be amazed and awed by nature.
The second night we got to our Airbnb in Sturgis, South Dakota - a set of four cabins about ten miles outside of town, hidden high up in the hills and forest. We were the only people staying in any of the cabins and this city girl was already freaked out because this is EXACTLY how every horror movie starts.
We quickly discovered the wifi wasn’t working, nor was the air conditioner, and there was barely a phone signal. I walked outside and scanned the nearby fields and trees for the path I would run when the killer that kills showed up and walked through our open doors that were propped open to get the air flowing as South Dakota was in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave.
Two hours later, one spent on the phone with Airbnb, I announced to the Mister that we were heading to nearby Deadwood for a night in a hotel. Much to his dismay - he’s a Country Boy at heart, after all, and was looking forward to a night in the woods - he dutifully indulged me, packed our bags back into the car and we headed out.
The change in plans threw everything off. We were supposed to have been in Sturgis for two nights, but could only secure a hotel in Deadwood for one. So, the next day, after touring Crazy Horse monument and walking the perimeter of Devil’s Tower, we headed through Wyoming, up to Billings, Montana - driving over the Black Hills in the worst storm I’ve ever experienced.
The next day we started out for Yellowstone National Park. Google had us driving safe, and dry, freeways the whole way there and I settled in for an easy drive. We pulled off for gas on Highway 212 and I saw a sign for Yellowstone pointing in the opposite direction of our travels. I quickly looked it up while the Mister pumped gas and discovered that Highway 212 - the Beartooth Highway - is the “scenic route” to Yellowstone. In no big hurry, we changed routes and headed down 212.
It was only a few minutes before I saw mountains in the distance. “I think we are going to drive through the mountains!” I excitedly said.
Au contraire mon frère… one does not drive “through” the mountains on Highway 212 - you drive to the TOP of the mountain in Montana and back down in Wyoming, to the tune of 10,947 feet. The elevation, in fact, is so high that people were still skiing and snowmobiling all along the route.
To say I was scared was an understatement - the guard rails along the hairpin turns and switchbacks, if any, are deceptively small and the only thing between you and a thousands of foot drop off at many points along the route. I was second guessing my “plan” and trying my hardest not to have a full-blown panic attack when we pulled into a turn off at the top of the mountain and were treated to this sight…
We emerged on the other side at the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone, just a few cars in front of us (we would enter at the West entrance for the remainder of the week - just one of 200 - 300 cars at any given time), pulled into the Lamar Valley and soaked our feet, and frazzled nerves, in an ice cold river. It would be the only time we were alone in the park for our entire visit.
That night, as we were heading off to bed, I thanked the Mister for getting us to our destination safe and in one piece.
I think back at how awry our plan had to go for those few moments at a 10,000 foot elevation. The thin air wasn’t the only thing that took my breath away - the beauty of it all was unmatched by much of what I’ve seen in my life. I was so grateful for the cancelled Airbnb, the fact that we could only book one night in Deadwood, the impromptu trip to Billings, for the story the Mister and I now shared (so much more interesting than a few hours on a nondescript freeway), and most of all, for our ability to deviate from a plan.
The Magic of the Pivot
Is the Universe giving you clues that you might need to deviate from your plan? What might you be missing if you ignore them? Don’t be so tied to your targets and goals that you miss the magic of the pivot.
Have you experienced the magic of the pivot? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD
SheHive Founder & Leadership Coach