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Have you ever been faced with something that didn’t go according to plan?

Maybe it was something you’d been preparing for for a while like an exam, a speech, a performance or a sports match.

Or maybe it was something that was more ‘on the fly’ that you thought would be easy, but in the end, it turned out to be the opposite, like a conversation with a friend that ended up getting awkward.

If it’s happened to you, you probably know what it feels like. It can be frustrating, embarrassing, confusing or straight up terrifying.

And one thing’s for sure, you probably walked away thinking, ‘I don’t ever want that to happen again’.

But the hard truth to swallow is that in life, not everything goes according to plan. There will be more awkward, scary, disappointing moments that we wished we could have a second chance at. Life goes on – the important thing to do is to not let those moments get you down and hold you back, but instead work out what caused things to get derailed so you can create a better result in the future.

When you reflect back, you almost get the opposite as a super power – the power of foresight.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, you can prepare for it and find ways to improve the situation if you’re faced with it again. When you think like this, you’re tapping into a positive growth mindset.

One of the best ways to do this is by creating an action plan.

Sounds like a lot of work – but we promise, it isn’t, and the payoff is totally worth it.

What is an action plan?

An action plan is simply a reflection exercise that helps you take a look back at what happened when you were faced with something that didn’t go to plan so you can come up with ideas for moving forward in the future.

Your action plan could be a list, a chart or a table that answers the following questions in bold. To help, we’ve chucked in some answers to guide you:

  • What happened: I handed in an assignment late, even though I had weeks to work on it.
  • What was the result: I received an automatic fail, and my teacher was pretty upset with me.
  • What was I thinking at the time: I felt embarrassed and annoyed with myself. I felt like it was a bit unfair though – I had stuff going on at home, I was busy and I wish people knew that.
  • What have I learnt that can help me: I need to manage my time better and reach out for help if I need it. Putting things off to the last minute doesn’t work.
  • What new ideas do I have planned moving forward? I’m going to mark down when my next assignment is due (to be honest I forgot when this one was due) and I’m going to set myself goals of how much I want done in the time leading up to that date. That way, it won’t feel like a crazy rush right at the end.

Also, I’m going to try and check in with my teacher and ask for help if I’m feeling lost. To be honest, I was feeling a bit lost with this assignment so I tried to avoid it as much as possible.

The next time you’re faced with a similar situation, you can look back at your action plan and make sure you don’t fall back into the same spot.

If you do find that things still don’t go to plan, repeat the process of making an action plan. Was it the same stuff as the time before that caused things to derail? Or was it something new?

If you do find yourself repeating the same mistakes, reach out to someone else for support. Depending on what your situation is, that could mean reaching out to a teacher, a guidance officer, a parent or another trusted adult that can provide you with some solid advice.

Just remember – there’s going to be heaps of things in your life that won’t go to plan – the important thing is to pick yourself back up, learn from what happened, and try again!