When things don't go to plan

Three months into the new year and some of you may have given up on your goals or are thinking about it. Before you do, read ahead.

Recently I have been building an outdoor gym. The pull up bar station has timber posts that are 3.6 metres high, so I had to dig 2 holes to a depth of 1.2 metres. First hole went according to plan. Second hole not so much. At about 600 millimetres deep I struck a gas pipe that was running through my property.

Pull up bar 3.JPG
Pull up bar 1.JPG

The smell was immediate, and it was panic stations. We immediately switched off the gas at the mains and ordered a technician to come in and repair the pipe. This was on a Saturday as well, so it was a major inconvenience having no gas. Not to mention the cost of an afterhours call out. We wasted half an hour digging this hole, and now we had to find another (safe) place to install the outdoor pull up station.

The whole thing was an inconvenience. But you know what? I didn’t stress out about it. I didn’t throw in the towel and give up the idea of an outdoor gym. I didn’t complain about all the time wasted or the fact I couldn’t have a shower, or use the oven for a few hours.

I am old enough and ugly enough to know that shit happens. I mean really, what are the odds of hitting a 5cm gas pipe in a 600m2 section that is not on the house plans and runs in a direction opposite to the street. That is downright unlucky. But we accept it and move on. It doesn’t mean our goals to build a gym had to change. We just needed to change the path to getting there.


How does this relate to me and my finances?

I believe this lesson is greatly important. If we want to be in control of our finances, we should have a plan for every dollar we earn as to where we are going to send it. Whether it be for food, leisure, savings, investments, retirement, travel, or whatever. Every dollar should have a job and a purpose.

When we set plans, we expect a certain outcome. For example, at the start of every year we set a budget for the year. I budget how much we expect to spend on different spending categories. Last year we went $10,000 over budget! In terms of goal setting it was a big miss. We could have easily been discouraged by this and decided budgeting wasn’t worthwhile or that trying to save money is a losing game.

Instead, we asked ourselves why this happened. It was just one event that resulted in the failed goal – building a deck that wasn’t in our initial plans. Apart from that we were within budget. It could have easily been another event such as repairing a fence or an overseas wedding. From simply asking why we failed our goal, we can usually come to the conclusion that we were not as far off as we thought. This is not as discouraging as we thought and are more likely to continue budgeting as per our plan.

A similar thing may occur when investing. We may be disappointed with our investment returns when they are less than planned for. When thinking about it though, we realise that riskier investments go through up and down years, and this was just a down year. This happens and is a fact of life. The key is that we don’t get discouraged and stick to the original plan and continue to invest as per the plan.


Final Thoughts

Even if the outcomes of our actions do not match our plans, it is the process that is most important. Life happens, and things occur that were not part of the plan. Or sometimes our priorities change. We can either work around these things with new plans or accept that there is no way around it. Either way, it has happened. It has made it more difficult to achieve our outcomes, but we just need to adjust our expectations and continue with a plan.

The sooner we learn that we can’t control all things, the better. For things we can’t control, never underestimate the wonderful human quality of adaptability. Instead of giving up, adapt. Make changes to your plans if necessary.

In short, the key qualities to endure unwanted events are acceptance, adaptability, positive thinking and persistence.

For these qualities to shine, our plans and goals need to be set correctly so that they are motivational to us. So that they are worth getting back on track for. A poorly set goal that is not aligned to our motivational values will not be likely to entice us to recover from detours. If we aren’t motivated, we are less likely to accept the problem. We definitely won’t adapt with a new solution. We won’t be thinking too positively about the problem, and we definitely won’t persist. I really wanted an outdoor gym to get my health on track, so I was very motivated, and nothing was going to stop me completing this project.

If you set goals where you want something badly enough, you won’t let anything get in your way.

As long as we don’t give up on our plans we will always have a compass steering us in the right direction, even if there are the occasional detours. The results from a plan that fails, are infinitely better than no plan at all. The experiences alone are wonderful learning opportunities. I now have a story behind my outdoor gym that I can tell too.

At least with a plan that fails we are going close to the right direction. No plan means we have no idea where we will end up.

Pull up bar 4.JPG



The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here


What tactics do you use to help you get back on track after a detour? What keeps you motivated to get back to the plan?