Accepting the Unexpected – Lessons from the Pope’s Visit

The pope is in D.C. and I got to see him yesterday during the Papal parade. Although the experience was unforgettable, the events leading up to the parade were nerve-racking and stressful. How could something so joyous bring me so much stress? As I strolled the streets of D.C. (at 5 AM) to head to sunrise mass my pope induced confusion finally hit me. All my strategic planning should provide me all the security I need and if something goes awry, I always have my skills and experiences to rely on.

If you know me, you know I am all about planning. I like knowing the minute details and I always have back-up plans for my back-up plans. Normally, when something doesn’t go according to plan, I get a bit tense. Who doesn’t? We all spend enormous amounts of time preparing for all types of uknowns. Govies know this better than anyone. It’s your job to know the system inside and out and to be prepared for trouble when it comes around. But if you are like me, you feel like you can’t plan enough. So here is some advice for those of us who stress about the details.

Tip #1: Take a step back

You often hear the phrase, take a deep breath. For some, this may work just fine. It just doesn’t do it for me. So my version of tip #1 is to find your own way of distracting yourself from the frustration. Personally I think of a funny movie quote, imagine the scene in my head, and find myself laughing out loud (internally that is). One of my go-tos is the scene in Kung Fu Panda when Master Shifu attempts to find inner peace only to be interrupted. Whatever it is, make sure it is something tailored just for you!

Tip #2: Remember you are only human

All the planning in the world cannot possibly prepare you for the infinite number of alternate scenarios that could take place in the future. You are only one player in the grand scheme of life and you cannot control everything. Remember there are others who work the train system, or who have to follow orders to align with safety protocols, or who simply may have a different viewpoint about how to go about their day-to-day lives. Be understanding that your way may not be the only way!

Tip #3: Do your homework

Make sure your agency or company has done their work on preparing for potential crises. This could be as simple as communicating among all levels of your staff to make sure all employees are aware of a fire protocol. If you have done your homework properly, you should be able to look at your previously mapped out alternatives. Therefore, you are ready to act when the time comes!

Tip #4: Ask for help

You do not have to be all-powerful. Realistically, you do not have all the answers. This is most important when working in a team environment or on a group project of sorts. A combined effort is the best effort. I met a lovely young lady while on my pilgrimage to the papal parade and together we were able to take turns holding down the fort if one of us needed to get some air. I was glad to confide in and work with her. She knew the area better than I did and I could, in turn, speak to various people in different languages to learn about the happenings of the event. It made the event that much better!

Bottom line, you can handle anything that comes your way. You can handle the situation negatively OR you can make the experience a positive one where you takeaway lessons learned. However, don’t forget to do your homework, be as prepared as possible, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. You are the decider here!

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