What to do When Your Life Plan Falls Apart


I have a Douglas Adams quote tattooed on my back that says:

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Along with my all-time favorite Steinbeck quote, this is one of my life’s mantras. My life is proof that this quote speaks truth.

Entering college at the tender age of 16, I could see my bright and beautiful future within arm’s distance. I could see the PR agency I’d eventually intern in, only to become an Olivia Pope-style publicist with the killer wardrobe to match. Still, even with such a career I’d still have time for friends and my boyfriend. Oh and I’d never have money issues because you know, I’d be the PR Princess.

God had different plans.

  • I was 17 when my then-boyfriend brutally sexually assaulted me.
  • I was 19 when I was rushed to the hospital to find that I had multiple blood clots lodged in my left leg.
  • I was 20 when I switched to online college because my health issues had kept me from attending traditional college.
  • I was 21 when I realized that being a PR guru wasn’t what I wanted so I reached for something else.

So no, I wouldn’t say that my life plan was a great indicator of where my actual path would lead me. But you know what, I am so happy it didn’t.

See, if my life had worked out the way that I had always envisioned I would have missed meeting my husband, who alone is worth all of the hardships and challenges. I would have pursued a career that didn’t truly satisfy me. I would have missed out on the lessons I’ve learned. I wouldn’t have started blogging or connecting digitally with so many amazing people.

So yeah, it was worth it. Like Douglas Adams had once wrote, I ended up where I needed to be. So when your life plan derails a bit (or you know, it just freakin’ goes completely off the rails and crashes), here’s a few tips that I learned the hard and good way:

  1. Be prepared but don’t try & plan life

Being prepared is important. It’s important to have a general sense of where you’d like your life to go. It’s important to have goals so you can work towards them shaping your future. But seriously, DO NOT PLAN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE OUT. You set yourself up for failure when you get attached to a life envisioned perfectly.

Yes, it’s totally fun to envision what your life would look if everything worked out exactly how you’d like but life doesn’t work like that. Be prepared, work hard but do not map out your life. Besides, when you approach things with an open mind, you never know where you might end up.

  1. Don’t put time limits on yourself

College grad by age 22. Grad student by 23. Stellar career with a window office by 26. Sound familiar? Sound remotely similar to timelines you’ve given yourself?

This is another way that we set ourselves up to be hurt. I wanted that window office, too.  I put that pressure on myself and it made me feel even worse when my plans derailed.

It is important to have goals. It is harmful to have goals with expiration dates. Click To Tweet

Who cares if you don’t get your Master’s degree until you’re in your 40’s? You still did it; you still crushed that goal.

To be frank, shit happens. Show yourself some grace. Don’t place a time limit on your life’s accomplishments.

  1. Reflect, reflect, reflect

At some point your life, you have faced disappointment. Whether that be losing the best friend you thought you’d have forever or breaking up with the boyfriend you swore was the one, at some point your life has taken a turn for the unexpected.

What did you gain from it? What did you learn? Did it teach you about friendship or relationships?

Reflect often. Reflect on experiences you’ve already gone through. Journal about what you’ve learned from them. When new twists come up, relish in the confidence that you have the skills to handle it. Click To Tweet

Don’t just stop with yourself, either. Reflect on the journey of others. Research into the lives of top influencers in a field of interest to you and look at their (usually) unpredictable path that led them where they are. Ask members in your family about times where they felt that their life wasn’t going where they thought.

And always, always, always remember:

It is not always about going where you want. It is about ending up where you need to be. Click To Tweet

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