By Guest Blogger, Mary Ellen Miller
So many things happen to us in life. Day in and day out, we make decisions, interact with others, and move about our world. We fill our lives with memorable moments, as well as the more mundane minutia. Sometimes things go as planned, often they don’t. Sometimes something happens that seems so insignificant that the impact that follows catches us by surprise. Occasionally, we experience an event that we instantly know is going to change everything. Yet even then, while we recognize that our future may now be on a very different path than the one we had imagined, it is hard to predict where it will lead. We can’t know what will be gained, lost, or learned on this unexpected new journey. Changes can lead to both great and challenging times. But one thing seems to always be true, if only in hindsight; these plot twists definitely make for an interesting ride!
Helping Others to See Life’s Challenges as Plot Twists
My sister Peg came up with the idea of “plot twists” while presenting a program called Zen and the Art of Aging. She works with men and women in their 80s and 90s, who, in addition to many health challenges, are often struggling with spending their final years in a senior home rather than their own. It is a hard adjustment for many. One day, Peg began a session by asking who had loved reading over the years. As most nodded their heads, she pointed out how it seemed that the best books, the ones that held our attention all the way through, often had big plot twists. Soon they were discussing some of the books that stood out in their memories. There was a lot of conversation as they shared their favorites.
Now that Peg had the seniors’ interest, she suggested that this concept might have a carry over to life. It seems that it is the unexpected events that happen throughout our lives that create our special and unique history, sending us on new paths of discovery, opportunity, and yes, challenges. This led to discussions of some of the unexpected events that happened in their lives and what had followed. Ultimately, they began to talk about the “plot twists” that they were now facing. For one woman in particular, this way of looking at her current life seemed to really click, and there was a noticeable change in her attitude in the following days and weeks.
After using this concept with the seniors, Peg kept a small sticky note on the front of her scheduler that simply said “Plot Twist”. It was there to remind her to take a breath when the unexpected occurred. It also provided a quick prop for impromptu sharing. People would see the note, read it, and ask what it meant. That is just what happened with her young granddaughter who, ever curious, asked about it. One day after that conversation, Peg stood waiting outside school for their usual walk home together. As the ten year old approached, Peg could see a frown on her face. She had clearly had a rough day and shared with her grandmother how she had had a disagreement with her best friend, who now seemed to want to be best friends with someone else! Peg made sympathetic noises and gave the little girl a hug. But within moments, her young face broke out in a smile, and she said, “You know what, Grandma? I guess it’s just a plot twist! It will be okay.” And with that, the crisis was over.
So, young or old, or anywhere in between, recognizing the “plot twists” that happen in life may help us all navigate the opportunities and challenges they bring with them.
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