When You Feel Like Nothing is Going According to Plan
I love a good plan.
I’m constantly writing out notes, mapping out all the steps it will take to get to my goals, and figuring out what the future will look like.
Checking things off the to-do list, knowing what to expect, and working hard to get things done gives me a sense of control.
If I do my part and get those tasks checked off the list, everything SHOULD go my way, right?
But then they sometimes don’t.
What are you supposed to do when you’ve poured all your efforts into something and it fails? Or you invest your time, money and resources into something that doesn’t go according to plan?
I’ll tell you a quick story…
When I first started my Etsy shop in 2010, it did better than I could have hoped for. It was good timing and there were only 3-4 other shops selling pre-made design templates like I did. For that reason, anything I designed for the shop sold really well. I had a small baby and just worked while he napped (which honestly wasn’t that often).
But with just those few hours each week, we were able to save up a pretty nice down payment on a house we were saving up for. We got so excited because it also seemed like I’d be able to work from home with the kids without getting overwhelmed.
The shop did pretty well all through 2011 and 2012 when I had my second baby, a little girl. My son was diagnosed with autism that year and my work time seemed to shrink even more as I had to research and figure out how to help him. But even then, the passive income sales still kept coming in and I designed as much as I could at night when the kids were asleep.
Everything with my little business venture was going according to plan.
…But then it didn’t.
Etsy made some changes to search that literally cut my views in half.
More shops similar to mine opened (actually a lot more!).
Apps popped up that eliminated the need for many of the items I was designing.
In 2014, I had my third baby boy and just really wasn’t able to keep up with other shops who seemed to have new designs every day and grow big social media followings. I wasn’t trying to compete but I couldn’t help but feel behind.
I had to choose: Prioritize time with my three babies or prioritize my three social channels Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Keep my home in order? Or focus on growth and profit?
So we watched as my income got lower and lower. It was honestly a super depressing season!
That happens. Things change.
Life never actually goes exactly according to plan.
Maybe you’re weary of trying to create a business that’s not making enough income.
Maybe you’ve applied for position after position and they all turn you down.
Maybe your big launch was a flop. Or you wonder what the secret sauce is that makes others seem so successful but not you.
Maybe you’re having anxiety attacks because you have too much work and never enough time to manage all the different hats.
When life doesn’t go according to plan, it’s hard to know what to do.
But there’s definitely a few things you SHOULD NOT do…
1. Don’t get stuck.
If something’s not working, don’t force it or just keep on pretending everything’s fine. Make changes, do research, ask questions, maybe even find a mentor. Pivot your focus and try a different avenue so your eggs aren’t all in that one basket. Often times it’s those big problems that turn into really creative solutions in the end.
2. Don’t throw in the towel.
Many times the things that are the most rewarding take perseverance and struggle. Don’t just assume you aren’t cut out for this. Get stronger. Learn new skills. Improve those weak areas, listen to wise advice and don’t give up on a good thing if you think you have one. You may have to change course a little, but you don’t have to call it quits.
3. Don’t get bitter.
It’s so easy to place blame and react instead of being proactive. Instead of getting frustrated with algorithm changes or getting jealous that the “competition” is thriving. Keep that positive attitude. Collaborate with others. Use it as an opportunity to innovate. Be thankful for what you do have and be proud of what you have accomplished.
4. Don’t feel like a failure.
Sometimes it’s good to know what won’t work so you can move on and find out what will. It’s a quick way to learn. I know it’s easier said than done, but TRY not to take everything personally. Your value doesn’t consist of your business’ value. You might just need to see a different perspective or get some good feedback to move forward from a hiccup.
5. Don’t lose heart.
I love the quote about how breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs. Figure out what you really want for your life and keep the big picture vision front and center. Hope and purpose can be a powerful motivators. Maybe it’s that one thing you’re struggling with now that will give you an edge later.
Moral of my story…
When work didn’t go according to plan for me I had to do a few different things…
Work smarter - I got better at systems, productivity, and work life balance. I realized a totally separate passion from design I never knew about before.
Branch out - I now work for a few favorite clients and my church a couple days a week in addition to my shop. I also get to create content and tools for work life balance and design. I LOVE getting to do this and how it keeps things fresh and new each week.
Focus on what matters - Instead of shooting for some “ideal perfect plan” of a 6-figure business, running a team, growing bigger, etc. I realized what I ACTUALLY wanted was just to prioritize my family and put my creativity to use in a way that helped others. That gave me freedom to make wise choices instead of popular ones.
Sometimes when things don’t go according to plan, it’s because there’s an even better path than you could’ve imagined. I hope that encourages you for whatever stage you’re in friend!