Warning: Plot Twist Ahead! 5 Ways to Stay On Course

When you find a fork in the road, take it…

You never saw it coming.

You’re moving along at your preferred pace, checking items off the list, advancing the cause and preparing for What’s Next.

When suddenly… it’s Next.

And it’s not at all what you planned. Or envisioned. Or wanted.

Maybe your position was eliminated.

Maybe someone else got the anticipated promotion.

Maybe you’re sitting on the toilet in the ladies’ room when the event organizer enters the restroom and asks, as delicately as possible from outside the stall, if you wouldn’t mind going on stage an hour earlier as the first speaker went waayyyy short?

(This actually happened to me and yes, I flushed any notion of having more time to mentally rehearse and got myself to the stage..)

You’ve just hit a Plot Twist!

Things don’t always go according to plan. How can you best stay prepared to pivot without getting caught back on your heels?

Here are 5 Ways to Stay on Your Toes When It’s Time to (Plot) Twist:

1. Think Like a Chess Player

My brother had the uncanny ability at a very young age to stare at a chess board and see dozens or more moves ahead. I had no such talent which is why he became one of the top high school chess players in the country while I hung out at the mall. What can we learn from big bro? Always stay a step or two ahead, thinking through the possibilities of what might come next and visualizing the best potential outcome. Analyze and account for future opportunity on the board.

2. Have Your Readiness Plan Ready

Just as you’d prep your home for an impending storm, so too should you have your personal storyline in order. Keep your resume updated at least once a year, stay in touch with colleagues, don’t wait to network outside your immediate circle until you need to – grow your contacts regularly.

3. Do Some Mental Yoga

If you’re into yoga, cool. If not, the mantra here is simple. Stay flexible. The more you focus on what “should” happen, the more likely you are to break rather than bend in the winds of change. Be bendy.

4. Adjust Your Sails

It’s easy to veer off course. You’re more likely to stay on target when you account for the wind and know that it won’t always blow in your direction. Guide yourself around icebergs in your way and keep seeking the current. And, as I posted recently in Stop Playing the Waiting Game, when there is no wind, ROW.

5. Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Sometimes progress is a step back or off to the side (a career cha-cha, anyone?) but if you focus on forward-momentum, no matter how small, it WILL add up. Start with a single step. Small goals make big goals.

Stop seeing those twists and turns as detriments and instead approach them like page-turning chapters. Pivot points are what make our stories – and our career journeys – interesting and worthy of telling.

And while you shouldn’t take your eye off the end goal, sometimes the fork in the road leads to a new path worthy of exploring.

Take the turn and see where the story goes.

Valerie Gordon is a career and communication strategist and the founder of Commander-in-She. A long-time television producer, her work has been seen on CBS, HBO, ESPN and Lifetime.

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