When what was going right suddenly starts to go wrong, it’s time to Lead Consciously for personal achievement and success

What do you do when things don’t go as you planned? 

At the end of last semester, I became swamped. Grading student papers took a full week. My students’ papers were so excellent, my initial plans to just dash through them fell by the wayside as I read their heartfelt summaries of what they had gained during the semester.  The good news is that they inspired me tremendously. During the week or so that I read through their papers, I saw clearly why this work is important, why I do what I do, and how it can foster personal achievement and success.

After grading was finished, I planned a hiatus during the Christmas holidays. I even had the audacity of imagining myself staying in bed all day reading whatever I wanted and getting clear on my goals for 2012.

But…as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”  Life for me came in the form of computer and cell phone breakdowns, family and personal illnesses and upsets, and my own thwarted determination to dejunk piles of papers that had more nostalgic benefit than current utility.

How did I handle it?

For the most part, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other to keep going (with an occasional time-out for a pity party, allowing myself to feel just plain miserable). Fortunately, I no longer go into the “Why me?” frame of mind.  I know why me. It’s because bad things happen to all of us. Nothing goes smoothly and perfectly. Change is not linear.  It occurs in fits and starts, dips and rebounds. We learn and grow through adversity.  And while I don’t like to think that anyone suffers to learn a lesson, I do believe that adversity creates an opportunity for us to grow, if we are willing.

We define “Leading Consciously” as “the ability to examine yourself, become conscious of your automatic habits, patterns, and beliefs, and to choose new behaviors as a result of the expanded awareness.”  In other words, instead of doing what you have always done, deliberately step out of autopilot into conscious assessment of what assumptions, emotions, and behaviors  got you to where you are and what new assumptions, emotions, and behaviors it will take to get you where you would like to go.

At one point, I had been stuck in my autopilot pity party for about a week.  Finally, I reflected on what it means to lead consciously and decided to make the shift. 

With the pity party behind me and the future bright in front of me, here’s what I learned in hindsight:

  • I can either ruminate over how wrong everything has turned out or I can deliberately force myself to still my mind, meditate, and then ask for guidance. If I do the latter, I always get redirected toward a possible solution. The challenge is to make the conscious decision to not just wallow in repetitive rehashing of what went wrong.  Instead, go into stillness and then listen for guidance.
  • Love is plentiful and all around us.  All we have to do is to allow ourselves to experience it and to let in the vulnerability of it. Brene Brown, a colleague, talks about “the power of vulnerability.” How right she is!  There is great power in allowing ourselves (myself) to feel vulnerable and to reach out to others for help.
  • Even if I slow down, the world doesn’t stop. Things that are most important to me are not lost forever. I may not get things done as fast as I would have liked or in the way I would have liked. I may even be redirected toward a new possibility. Yet what emerges often turns out to be better than what I had originally planned.  And, no matter what, there is *always* so much to be grateful for.

For me, the new year has finally begun.


  1. Reply

    I’m with you on the pity party, Jean. I came over to your blog to see what you had to say that might jerk a knot in my tail. You always inspire me.

    YOU ARE THERE as I write myself through some process of perspective, inspired by your post. I want to be where you are at the end of your article. I’m starting where you were at the beginning.

    It’s well after 5 AM on Thursday morning where I live. I awakened shortly after ten last night: another day under the bus. It’s anybody’s guess when I will fall asleep again – but I’m shooting for making it until dark on Friday night, hoping to reset my suprachiasmatic nucleus a bit closer to earth norms.

    My life-long sleep struggles are legion. I was the kid they had to *wake* for Christmas. I know NOW I have the rare “non-24 hour sleep/wake cycle” form of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome [DSPS N-24]. Unlike the rest of you earthlings, we don’t rephase to light –extremely rare in sighted individuals.

    Exacerbating all, I sleep like the dead: I don’t wake to sound. Seriously. I could probably write a best-seller describing what I’ve managed to sleep through in my sixty years on your planet — at least, if we filed it under fiction. Nobody wuld buy it as an autobiography.

    My struggles must sound heavenly to light sleepers Unfortunately, it’s tough to have much of a life unless you can be sure you’ll be awake for it. For the last week or so, I haven’t been. (I haven’t been, that is, when I was supposed to be.)

    As *always* happens when I am forced by life to work outside my body’s native chronorhythms, they become TOTALLY destabilized. Until I can restabilize around biorhythms (at best, a three-week process), I can no longer control when I sleep and when I wake – at all.

    No one EVER tales the information in that last paragraph literally. There is *always* someone or something “important” to initiate a request that I make an exception to the only thing that has EVER worked – keeping my wake-up time a rock solid noon, regardless of how long it takes to fall asleep after I put myself to bed at 4AM.

    You have no IDEA the number of Morning Nazi’s I encounter. Few are willing to accommodate me outside their own sleep-wake cycles, of course. And few are gracious when I demur.

    To my mind, that’s the same as feeling entitled to be righteously indignant because a dinner party guest with severe food allergies refuses an item on your menu. But there’s really no use attempting to explain to the “come on, just this once” folks that their agenda is simply not important ENOUGH to destabilize a life for the entire month following. No matter how nicely I attempt to set the boundary, they tend to get pissy and spread vicious rumors about my uncooperative nature. Or worse – which sends me into a funk that makes THIS one look mild!

    I am working on a book for others who experience similar struggles, “Living with JetLag.” Uninterrupted time to write (or blog) is cold comfort when one is in a blind panic about when and how one can call to make groveling apologies for all the yesterdays, when one knows that setting a make-up appointment is possibly an over-promise. Intentionality s practically impossible whenever I destabilize, even considering that I work on the phone and for myself – which is the ONLY way I’d be able to work at all. (I can’t imagine telling a boss how sorry I am I overslept more than a time or two and keeping a job.) In any case, a phone appointment is still an APPOINTMENT. And I missed two today alone.

    Think about sixty years of this, and you’ll understand why I’m in a funk today – I mean, tonight – or this morning – or however it fits with earth norms.

    At least, this time, I’m spared the “when am I going to LEARN?!” self-flagellation. I was one of the primary care-partners for a friend who narrowly escaped death last month. That WAS important enough to destabilize my life. The rest of my health is pretty darned excellent, and for that I am pretty darned grateful – seldom so much as when someone I love is struggling with health issues. It’s good to see that in print.

    I still have to recover and restabilize, however. And I’m still a month behind with no clear path toward scheduling catch-up. And I still have to make a living – and coordinate with conference organizers for my presentations at the upcoming ACO conference in March – when I will destabilize again. And I still have ADD, managed best with STRUCTURE, of which I have, at this very moment, practically none.

    No wonder I miss New York like a lover – it kept my hours. In Cincinnati I lead a fairly solitary life outside the internet — unless you count my contacts with the night staff at the various convenience stores that stock butter and toilet paper and other things that run in short supply when I can’t make it to the open-all-DAY stores.

    So I’m feeling sorry for myself. Again. I’m grateful for my freezer and for dried and canned foods, but saying THAT in print looks pitiful — and I’m craving fresh produce!

    On the hopeful side, I managed to catch my good friend and colleague Peggy Ramundo just as she was heading for bed. While she doesn’t fully understand, she empathizes, and generously delayed her bedtime long enough to help me make the following plan that might work for tomorrow, with her help.

    When I can’t count on remaining awake at the end of MY day long enough to coordinate with the world’s idea of an appropriate time to fall asleep, I’m going to her house to help her finish taking down Christmas. She, too, is behind after dedicating last month to our friend. A Win-Win Solution, as the gurus say. Completions provide energy and encouragement, even if they aren’t your own, and the activity itself makes it likely I will remain awake. So far, at least, I haven’t dozed off on my feet.

    AND, believe it or not, dumping it all here on your blog has been helpful. I DO feel better than I did when I was simply spinning my wheels in a panic. Blogging has always been centering to me – and perhaps my story will add some kind of “Boy, it really COULD be worse” perspective for your readers, or help them understand how difficult it is for a loved one who infuriates them by “sleeping all day and staying awake all night.”

    So, just as soon as I hit “submit comment” I’m going to make a list of a few things I CAN do at this hour and see how many I can knock off between now and nine, when I can start making those apology calls. I just LOVE crossing things off a To-Do list, don’t you?

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and on ADDerWorld – dot com!)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    • Jean L.


      Wow, Madelyn. I am so glad this blog was here for you. I have never heard of the Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome [DSPS N-24], but I am starting to wonder if a friend of mine has it, or at least a milder form of it. Thanks for this information. I imagine others are glad to know about it as well.

      Now as for your own situation — I have had to make more apologies for missed stuff than I care to even think about, so I can definitely relate to the cringes that are implicit in what you are saying.

      It’s a fallacy, I think, to believe that these various trials and tribulations are supposed to miraculously bypass us. Now, having said that, I do believe in the principles of the law of attraction — that positivity brings more positive experiences. So, I should qualify what I am saying. What you wrote above embodies the essence of conscious leadership to me. While you described what you are going through as a “pity party,” I must say it was one of the most intentional and forward leaning pity parties I have witnessed. You responded to decentering events, recognizing the physical and emotional impact this would cause. So now you are decentered, in physical and mental angst, and you know what to do to get yourself recentered again. For me, this is what it’s all about.

      I have admired you and your blog since I discovered it. Now that I have this additional insight about it, my admiration has only grown.I look forward to reading your book.

      Thanks for responding.

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