Embracing Plan B

By nature I am a planner. I plan everything. And then I re-plan. I probably spend 90 percent of my time thinking about the future and planning for it. I consider my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I anticipate problems and consider contingencies. I have a Plan A.

A Well-Worn Detour Sign - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/georgeclerk, Image #13522666

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/georgeclerk

But, unfortunately, Plan A rarely happens. When it does, it is awesome. But for me, Plan B is usually the norm. Like an old friend of mine used to say, “Do-do occurs.”

For example, a while back I was sitting in the Delta Crown Room in Nashville. My flight to Dallas had been cancelled because of ice in Dallas. I was scheduled on the next flight out, but I had a three-hour wait. Waiting is not one of my favorite things.

The funny thing was that I was on my way to have dinner with my friend, John Eldredge, who at the time was a Thomas Nelson author. We had had a difficult time getting together. Just the previous fall, we were supposed to go fly fishing together—just the two of us. I had eagerly anticipated the trip for months.

But, two days before the trip, I got a call from John’s agent. He told me that John had been thrown from a horse and knocked out. Worse, he had broken both wrists. Obviously, we had to scuttle the trip.

So, once John was better, we regrouped and rescheduled. Rather than wait for the weather to get warm enough to fish, we decided to get together for dinner with our wives. What could possibly go wrong?

So I made reservations at the Black Bear Restaurant just outside of Colorado Springs. This is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Gail flew up a few days early to spend time with my oldest daughter who, at the time, was living in Colorado.

I called Gail that morning before I left. My plan was to arrive in the Springs at 2:40 p.m. “I’ll call you when I land,” I promised. “Let’s plan to meet at the hotel and then drive to the restaurant together. We’ll have plenty of time.”

I arrived at the Nashville airport a full hour before my 10:40 a.m. flight. I then proceeded to check in. It was only then that I learned my flight had been cancelled.

“Can you book me on another carrier?” I pleaded with the agent.

“Nope. Everything is booked solid into Colorado Springs and Denver,” she responded.

“Bummer,” I sighed. “I have a 7:00 p.m. dinner reservation.”

She put me on the standby list for a flight that wouldn’t get me in to Colorado Springs until 6:15 p.m. The restaurant was another forty-five minutes from the airport—assuming the roads were clear. And, of course, it is snowing in Colorado Springs.

When I was younger, this would have stressed me out. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I was. But I definitely wasn’t stressed. I thanked the agent and began to wonder what kind of adventure awaited me.

Over the years, I have learned that my Plan B is often God’s Plan A. Nothing happens by accident. To quote Richard Rohr, “everything belongs.”

I think Plan B is God’s way of reminding me that He’s in charge. And, frankly, it’s better that way. I don’t care how hard I plan, I can’t anticipate everything. Nor do I always know what’s best. But He does.

In God’s economy there is no Plan B. He is sovereign. As difficult as things get—as chaotic as they may appear—He only has Plan A. And, quite frankly, I’m content to rest in that. I may not understand all the reasons, but I am content to rest in His Providence and enjoy the adventure.

And, as it turned out, I got on the flight, and we arrived early into Colorado Springs. I picked up Gail and drove to the restaurant. The roads were clear and we made better time than I anticipated. We arrived at exactly 7:00 p.m.

By the way, my friend Pete Wilson has written an entire book called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?. This is a beautiful book that I heartily recommend.

Question: How do you respond when Plan A comes unraveled? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Utelenenugent

    You have blessed me so tremendously with your PLAN A and PLAN B scenarios.  I have been praying for more faith, and these kinds of affirmations is very timely indeed.

    THANK YOU!

  • Ajpminer

    I learned years ago from repeated experiences with a friend who was often delayed or late for our weekly appointments. I was tempted to be irritated. But soon decided I would make the best of the situation and take work with me that I could do while I waited. I would take a book I was reading, or some writing or I would make myself at home and play on her piano!  It was a great bonding time for the two of us, as she had several children and a husband who would without fail have emergencies or just need her.  Over the years, I have found this strategy works so well. I am in control of my reactions, and the underlying message to myself is that I trust that with God’s help things will work out . And they have, because of this strategy, I experience peace with my life and the very mortal,like me, people in it.

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    I am definitely a planner! My dad taught me how to look at the big picture, consider every angle and every possible natural consequence, before making a decision. But fortunately (for my husband :) ) I still see ‘plan B’ as an adventure. For example, when we’re on a road trip and run into a detour, I settle back in my seat and look forward to the adventure….seeing areas I’ve never seen before and who knows what we could run into! :) ‘Plan B’ may make us late, may keep us from doing something or seeing someone…but most of the time we’re still alive! Let’s enjoy it :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patti-Schieringa/100000060620784 Patti Schieringa

    Plan A: Nice soak in my walk-in tub. Two nights ago.
    Problem:  The drain won’t drain. Hmmm. God, I’m going to need your help. 
    If I climb out from the seat onto the large Samsonite luggage piece I use for a reading stand, I might slip.  No I’d better tip it over. It’s too tall. I won’t be able to jump   onto the floor. Why else did I get the walk-in tub in the first place?  I hold on to the edge of the tub(cage) with my left foot on the suitcase. My free hand and a prayer lifts my stiff leg out.
    Plan B or C? I rinse off the plunger and after several pushes in the knee-high water, I hear a clink, and the water moves down.   
    God knew when I needed to replace the basket weave barrel with the luggage piece …   where the best place to have luggage is where you have to go.

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  • Andrea4279

    So very true…I am a planner as well and have found myself quite frustrated through the years when my initial plans fall through.  In fact, right now, I’m going through a setback with my Plan A after getting laid off from one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  What you say is true, Michael.  Flexibility is required in order to make room for the great adventures that lie ahead.  And, by the way, Black Bear restaurant is fabulous.  Good choice :)

  • Cherylaldridge2010

    Good story, makes me think of the article I read, where the writer says, “man plans…God laughs”

  • Jason

    I know I’m 9 months ago getting involved in this convo, but I wanted to thank the website owner(s) for posting so many enlightening and thought-provoking articles.  Embracing Plan B is a good read as well, although (at the moment) I disagree with the writer–I do tend to think that there is a Plan A and B in our lives.  That would be a lively discussion for another time, maybe.  At the moment, though–as a divorced, mid-thirties individual with ADHD–I’m going to post recent events of my life story here, with the knowledge that, even if no one reads or cares to hear what I have to say, at least God–in His love, hatred, or both of me-will at least read it.

    **************************
    So….I returned home from a day of weedwhacking and manicuring lawns, covered in grass clippings, checked my email and received an unexpected message: a person that I knew in the forestry field had notified me of a soon-to-be available position involving forestry work. Specifically, it was an opening for something I had been involved in as a volunteer several months ago. Except this time, it wouldn’t be volunteer work—it would be labor in exchange for those nice, green, rectangular pieces of paper. Pika pika!With an ecstatic sense of hope in my being, I printed off the necessary paperwork, filled it out, and mailed it in. Paperwork can be such drudgery but it’s gotta be done!There are actually four spots available for this project; it is only an interim job that is supposed to last a certain number of months, but that’s OK. In my eyes, it would seem the opportunity of a lifetime. I knew my application would be in competition with other college applicants, kids who would have more college and official learning under their belt than I, but I suppose it would be better to try and fail than not attempt at all (for the record, I have an Associate degree from a long time ago, have been through a ‘Master Naturalist’ course [I prefer Citizen Naturalist, JMO] and have had quite a bit of volunteer experience with forestry and conservation)Then, yesterday, I received a nice little notice: jury duty. Trial and jury selection will begin September 10th. Hiring for the four job entries begins September 16th. The letter says the trial could last up to 10 days. Hmmm…the time periods overlap, don’t they? If I’m selected for jury duty, this would present a problem. Tartar sauce! No, actually, my real words were a bit more profane than that. We all know that, by federal law, an employer must allow an employee to serve on jury duty if that is required. Of course, no such thing is applicable to someone who hasn’t been hired by that same employer! It’s possible that I won’t ultimately be selected. But what if I was? What if the trial really did last the full 10 days as advertised? Then it’s goodbye job!Worst case scenario–if I really do miss the job for this reason–then it will have been the second time in a month’s span that I have been knocked out of an opportunity due to things beyond my control. Earlier this month, I filled out a bunch of paperwork and went through a lot of trouble to try and gain entry into an out-of-state community college. The plan was, I would take two online courses, save up some $$, then move to that area and take on-campus courses by January 2013. But a recent law enacted by the federal Department of Education indirectly postponed my plans. This particular law says that now, for a college to approve an out-of-date student for online classes, such college would have to be certified for it, and the community college in question advised me that the certification was very expensive and that they couldn’t afford it. Since I wasn’t in a position to move there right away, guess what?Maybe it’s a test from God, the cosmic Creator, a test to develop patience and endurance, maybe hone some skills I will need down the road. It’s plausible. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy of earthly powers against me; I’m really not that significant (insignificance can sometimes be a good thing!) Sometimes–to borrow a phrase from the gamers–hax happens. If it’s hax, I’d like to think it will ultimately prove beneficial! And, of course, there’s the very real possibility that, in spite of everything, I simply won’t get the job, simply because they might find other applicants that they would consider better matches for it. But in the event that I’m not hired, I can at least be grateful to the person who initially told me about it, because I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I think all that we can do sometimes is to enjoy life as we have it the best that we can, and not to grasp too tightly to hopes that might evaporate like the morning fog.

    • Jason

      Ouch.  It didn’t apply the paragraph breaks!  I don’t understand that.  :/

  • Jason

    Why did my comment get deleted?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think it did.

  • Stephanie W

    I chuckled when I saw this topic.  I really truly believe it!  Sometimes it is not even Plan B though; sometimes it is not even ON my radar screen!

  • http://www.jasonjnicholas.com/ Jason J Nicholas

    I love the train of thought that plan B  is a synchronistic view that our courses are altered for some other purpose that will eventually become evident.  This approach helps me to not stress out during unexpected events. 

  • Mark Guay

    Michael,

    I have mixed feelings on having a plan B. I, too, am an obsessive planner and Plan B has been my navigation in what I have accomplished and done so far in my life. 

    I have tried recently to adhere to Seth Godin’s advice on never having a Plan B because plan B will always occur out of fear to achieve plan A.

    However, I really love how you put Plan B in God’s hands and eagerly wait for plan B’s “adventure” when Plan A doesn’t work out. When I reflect on 2012 and the unanticipated battle my wife has had with Lyme, I see the plan B God has led me down and feel comforted now on the newfound path I am on. 

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    Best,

    Mark 

  • Pastordude49

    I remember the cross: When it looked like everything was suddenly falling apart, God’s plan was finally coming together.

  • Sean Heritage

    My life continues to be a succession of Plan Bs, and I couldn’t be more pleased…

    http://seanheritage.com/blog/life-a-succession-of-plan-bs/

  • Mylinda Vick

    I’m thankful that God has a better plan than any of the Plan “A”‘s I could put together. Great story, and so true to life experiences. We can either embrace or reject the opportunity.

  • Micki

    Great post, Michael! I think that embracing Plan B is a product of maturity and experience. It is also acceptance of the power of God.

  • Dale L

    Sounds like a wonderful book.

  • Judy

    As I like to say, flexibility is my middle name!