Preparing for the unexpected

“It’s good to prepare. But also prepare for things not to go as prepared.”

Leland Surette

I’m sure many people have spoken many variations of this phrase but the first time I heard it used in that succinct form was at a mindfulness and the labyrinth retreat by the beautiful western sea shore of Nova Scotia. The retreat’s Indigenous Elder, Leland, had had a bit of day leading up to his session with us and spoke that within his opening remarks. Those fourteen words make up a lovely packet of pragmatic wisdom to carry in our pocket, and they may be interpreted in different ways depending how you tend to move through life.

“It’s good to prepare.” Well, I’m on board with that part. I would rather prepare for most things than not. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but in my experience better chance things will go well or be their best with some degree of prep & planning. That said, there’s a flip-side to preparation and I know I’m sometimes guilty of over-preparing—common outcomes of which are energies not being in spent on the right things, being less present, and missing out on some jewels that the moment may offer.

It’s all a matter of balance. Preparing is not about “I do” or “I don’t”; each of us is somewhere on a spectrum which will (or should!) vary depending on the situation. Personally, I’m getting better at finding the best middle ground on that preparation spectrum but of course hindsight, a darn valuable thing when you stop and look, often provides useful insight for effective future choices.

“But also prepare for things not to go as prepared.” This is the part I really like. Because, for some folks, maybe it means to have layers of preparation—have a plan B, and maybe even a plan C. While for others it means to brace yourself for things to go off track. And for others maybe it is about knowing when to acknowledge things are not going as expected and simply, gracefully, accept that and flow with it. Prepare, but be willing to abandon the plan without bitterness or annoyance. Maybe even embrace it if you can ;-)

I believe there is much relief and far less stress to be found in grace and equanimity. Easier said than done sometimes, but doable? Yes.

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