Deciding to Be Content Even When Life Doesn’t Go the Way You Plan

iStock_000000571138SmallHave you ever had Life throw you a curve ball that you never saw coming?  In moments like this, you have two choices–accept what has happened and make the best of it or be miserable.  I was recently faced with this decision myself.

Suddenly Uprooted

My husband is just completing two years of an expected three to four year post doctorate.  For the last 12 years, he’s been a graduate student and a post-doc.  (The time stretched out because he took two semesters off when our son was born, and he changed fields mid-study to one that has better employability.)

It’s been a long haul for our entire family, and we eagerly looked forward to the day when we could leave Chicago and move closer to family and friends in Michigan.  We thought we only had another year or two to wait.

And then, in March, my husband learned that his mentor was likely going to be moving to Florida.  We were taken aback but decided we could move to Florida for a few years so my husband could finish his post-doc with his mentor.  After all, I have many aunts and uncles who winter in Florida, so I would have family nearby and my mom could come to visit to escape the Michigan cold.  Besides, the drive is only about 17 hours, so we could drive home to visit fairly easily.

In mid-April, we heard that his mentor was also considering moving to Arizona.  Arizona was not a place that interested either one of us.  We’d miss the greenery of the Midwest.  We’d miss family.  Arizona is a 27 hour car drive away, and with our family of 5 living on a tight budget, flying really isn’t an option.

When his mentor ultimately chose Arizona, I’m not going to lie, I sat down and cried.

Playing the Mental Game

I did have options.  I could have said, “No, I don’t want to move,” and my husband would have accepted that.  However, I knew that if I did that, I’d be negatively affecting my husband’s career.  Almost all of the people he currently works with are moving to Arizona, too.  If my husband stayed in Chicago, he would have to start all over again and find a new mentor and new people to work with.  He’d lose years of productivity.

We both know moving with his mentor to Arizona is the best move, so I’ve decided to make the best of the move.

Instead of being depressed, we want to treat this move like an adventure.  We’ll be close to the Grand Canyon, so we can easily go visit.  We plan to really explore the West because we don’t plan on living out there again.

While we will miss family, we’ve luckily already had several family members let us know that they plan on coming out to visit.

I’m making a conscious effort to spin this move in a positive light because the last thing I want is to be miserable for the next two or four years while we live out there.

Instead, I want to look at this move as an adventure and enjoy it, knowing that it is only for a short while (a season, as some people say), and that soon enough, we’ll be in Michigan as we have planned all along.

I’m confident this is the right approach to take.  Raj Raghunathan, an Associate Professor at the University of Texas states, “Your happiness depends much more on your attitude than it does on objective, external circumstances.  Theoretically, it is possible to be happy no matter what the external circumstances. . .because one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened, as reflected in Milton’s famous saying, ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself cam make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven'” (Psychology Today).

If we have to move to Arizona anyway, I might as well enjoy my time there.

Have you been forced with unexpected life changes?  How did you respond?  Did you purposely choose a positive attitude?


Deciding to Be Content Even When Life Doesn’t Go the Way You Plan — 6 Comments

  1. Holy moly! You are a better woman than me. Right idea though – might as well make the best of it. Arizona has amazingly beautiful places and sites to see. You mentioned the Grand Canyon for one. I think that the Carlsbad Caverns are somewhere a few hours away too. Anyway, good luck!

  2. I hope it is as great! I’ve heard only good things about Arizona. It can be hard to spin bad news to yourself, but you have a stellar attitude! It’ll be a great adventure!

  3. Good luck on your journey! It’s been a series of life changes and you were able to cope up. Staying positive, adapting to the changes and being positive at the same time is a perfect and good attitude that everyone should possess!

  4. Fantastic perspective, Melissa, it’s important to focus on the fact that it is temporary – having something to look forward to (moving back) as well as seeing it as an adventure to explore will certainly help the time go quickly and have fun as well.

  5. Great attitude Melissa, so adventure is a beckoning …make some fantastic Lemonade with those a Lemon curve balls 🙂

    All the best in your new journey and may you have lots of visitors and many new good memories

    Alexa from Sydney, Australia

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