HOW TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
You’ve probably heard “expect the unexpected” in the sense of accepting that life is never 100 percent predictable. Today, though, I’d like to talk about a different way of understanding the phrase: as akin to another famous saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again—and expecting a different result.”
I Should Have Expected It
Much of what catches us off guard are things we could easily have seen coming. Have any of the following ever happened to you?
- Your kids start talking about what they want for Christmas, and you have no gift-buying budget. By January, your minimum credit-card payment has doubled.
- You swore off ice cream last week—but now you’re worn out from three hours of errands, your back seat holds two cranky preschoolers, all your stomachs are growling for an overdue supper, and that double-dip sundae poster in the store window looks so luscious.
- You only planned to run into the store for five minutes—but it took twenty, plus ten for parking, and you’re seriously late for your appointment.
You knew that traffic is normally heavy and lines long, that you’re low on willpower at the end of a busy afternoon, and that Christmas arrives every December 25 and the credit card bill every month. It wasn’t the “unexpected” that got you. It was wishful thinking on your part: the forlorn hope you could do much more than a moment’s logic would have recognized was possible.
Enter: Preparation and Planning
To escape being knocked out of kilter by inconveniences you had every reason to expect, the first step is to accept that the traffic, the clock, and the calendar won’t go out of their way to accommodate you. It’s your responsibility, and no one else’s, to anticipate life’s timing and realities.
Here are the top rules of expecting the “unexpected”:
- Write your schedule/to-do list to fit the way you know things are, not the way you wish things were—and then increase each time slot by 25 percent to ensure margin for error.
- Figure out how much you spend every year on vacations, holidays, and other special events. Divide the total by 24 and put that amount of money into savings twice a month—then you’ll have the funds to enjoy special occasions without going into debt.
- If you’re already in debt, lock away your credit cards. Then put a “debt repayment” category—preferably at least twice the minimum payment—into your monthly budget.
- Know your personal weak spots and give them no chance to get the best of you. Take a route that doesn’t pass the ice cream store. Keep healthy snacks in your glove compartment as insurance against hunger pangs. Plug in a podcast to keep your mind (and your kids’) off being tired and bored.
- Ask a friend to hold you accountable in areas where you struggle. While you’re at it, ask your children, too. They’ll love a chance to tell you what to do—and they’ll grow up learning better than to let the predictable become the unexpected!