I argued with my husband because I thought our vacation plans felt too busy, too packed and too scheduled. It’s one thing to want to make the most of every moment and another to will an experience into submission through masterful planning.
Based on past experience, our family’s road to success depended on flexibility, not rigidity or fitting in as much as humanly possible. Kids stay up too late, we all sleep in and miss the train; should we throw the plans in the trash? When that inevitably happens, we need to shift our vision to a new opportunity instead of a missed milestone.
It reminds me of a time early in my career when I would spend weeks working on a tightly managed work plan for my team’s work efforts. It not only had milestones, but also key actions down to the hour for each team member. It was that work plan that influenced our pricing and dictated our success… or so we thought.
Our client came to me to ask if we could do a job aid for an important new system. I brought the request to our program leadership. It was not a part of our original scope of work, but we were coming in under estimate for many of our tasks, so we agreed. While our original project was well received, the job aid was a wild success. It was on everyone’s desk and helped stop a lot of would-be headaches.
Even on the road to success, detours can bring some of our most meaningful experiences. What if you never allow them?
Seven Ways to Lead Beyond a Plan and Embrace Detours on the Road to Success
Think of your plans as a path forward, not a highway with sound barriers keeping you on the straight and narrow.
1. Getting lost opens the door to the unexpected
Remember the last time you were lost? I’ll bet you tried something new to get back on track or at least keep moving forward. Also, this doesn’t have to mean getting back to plan – it could be that it’s a doorway that opens a whole new path forward. Don’t be afraid to open the door just because initial plans are foiled.
2. Countless inventions were unintended, happy accidents
Superglue, play dough, the microwave oven and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are just a few things that are now ubiquitous and not what the inventors originally intended. In fact, many thought that their plans had failed until they realized that by shifting their original path their failed invention was actually a success.
3. There’s a reason your grandparents liked to take scenic drives
Taking a drive without expectation or destination means that you have the time to look at the window and take in the landscape; no zooming 1000 miles an hour. When life only passes by in a blur, you not only miss the beauty, but also sparks of inspiration.
4. Every experience is once in a lifetime. You can’t replicate it, but it can be wonderful every time
I’ve been fortunate to visit my favorite destinations multiple times on holidays over the years. While I have go-to restaurants, sites, and want-to-dos, they are never identical. Different companions, age, time and many other factors are overlays to my experience creating a new mix of the tried and true in with the new (and creating new cherished memories too).
5. Schedules that flex leave room for adventure
Embrace the detours and the adventure; it’s why you’re here. When you feel uncomfortable shying away from your comfort zone, don’t turn and run, use it. Stretch into new experiences and use your comfort zone to regroup and recharge before your next stretch. You really want to live a life that’s 100% predictable? Bet I can guess your answer.
6. Many paths can lead to the final destination
Anyone who has used Waze knows that they way you usually drive to a destination may not be the fastest at any given point in time. With Waze or Google Maps as your guide, you trust the wisdom of the app and turn off the road. We all know how this ends – you arrive but without the hair pulling, frustration and rising tempers of staying stuck in heavy traffic.
7. Don’t get divorced over the details
Fighting for what you know will work? What has to be? There’s no other choice and no other way? Come on. The most exciting detours are not only ones that you take alone but also when you’re collaborating. Let go of the idea that you’re the only one who has a vision and can see the path; together you can co-create shared success. Besides, just because it worked in the past…
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