Someone once said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But, what if I don’t like lemonade? Then sell it and buy some iced tea. What if I don’t have any sugar for iced tea? Go ask your neighbor for some. What if I don’t know my neighbor? Go meet your neighbor. What if I’m afraid of him? Then go meet your other neighbor and take her with you to meet the scary neighbor. Pretty soon you’re having a big ol’ iced tea social over at the neighbor’s house! You have got to challenge yourself to be flexible with your thinking in order to overcome life’s obstacles.

It has also been said that life is what happens while you are busy making plans. Planning is great and we strongly suggest that you do it, but at Down To Earth, we also stress the importance of being able to improvise when unexpected things happen. If you are not able to be flexible when life throws you a curve ball, you’re gonna get clocked in the head. By that we mean that when something happens that changes your plans, you have two choices: sit and pout about it, or adapt to the new situation. If you adapt to the new event, your life goes on and you can probably salvage some part of the original plan. If you spend a great deal of time being upset and pouting, guess what will happen next? You’ll get another curve ball because you are no longer running the show. You’re standing still watching the world go by and when you do that, it rolls right over you. Before you know it, the whole plan is ruined and you can no longer do any of it.

How do you know when it is time to be flexible and when it is time to stick firmly to the plan? That’s easy. Stick to your plan when you are actually in control and flex when the situation is out of your hands.

If you plan to go out to the store and buy a vacuum cleaner but you get to the car and find that it won’t start, ask yourself whether or not you can control the car. Maybe you can. Maybe you know how to fix what is wrong with it. Then fix it. Maybe you don’t know how to fix it, but you have a neighbor that could probably help you. Go ask for help. Maybe there are no helpful neighbors. You could call a tow truck and have it taken to a mechanic. The situation is still under your control, so try to stick to your plan. Let’s say that you only have enough money for the vacuum cleaner. You don’t have enough money to have the car towed. Well, get some more money. That may take time, but you’re still sticking to the plan. Uh oh, you can’t get to work to get more money without the car. So, you take the bus to work for a couple of weeks and then you have the car towed and repaired and then you take it to go get a vacuum cleaner. The situation was never out of your control, so you were able to stick to the plan.

Now let’s say you want to go get a vacuum cleaner and your 4-year-old child is throwing a fit and won’t get into the car. Is that situation under your control? His crying is not. You cannot make him stop crying. You can, however, pick him up and put him in the car. Perhaps he continues to cry all the way to the store. Can you make him stop crying? Nope, but you can probably pick him up and take him inside crying and still get the vacuum cleaner. It will be unpleasant, but you’re still in control and can stick to the plan.

But wait, you have two plans. One is to get a vacuum cleaner. The other is to have a happy little 4-year-old kid. Seems you can’t have both right now. Pick the more important of the two plans and begin. We’re thinking that having a happy kid is the more important of the two, so that’s where we’d start. What’s making him so unhappy? He doesn’t want to go to the store. Well, if you want your child to be happy, you have to teach him how the world works and that means that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. Put his cryin’ little self into the car and go get your vacuum cleaner. Your kid is not going to be happy for the next 20 minutes, but he’ll get over it and he will have learned that sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. If he takes that lesson into adulthood, he will be able to do things he has to do that he doesn’t like to do and he will be much more successful and therefore, happy. You stayed in control and you carried out two plans simultaneously.

Now consider that you are ready to get a vacuum cleaner and your 4-year-old is crying. You try to discover why he is crying and he says that he is hungry. He’s not going to be able to be happy if he stays hungry. Now your two plans are competing. Seems you can’t have a happy kid and go to the store. This is the time to be flexible. You cannot control your child’s hunger and therefore you must change your plans. Don’t waste time being upset. Don’t stand still wondering what to do. Your child may become sick. The store might close. If you waste time right now, you might guarantee that you’re not going to be able to have a happy kid or a vacuum cleaner.

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