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A while back, my wife and I encountered some crazy weather while heading to some meetings in Canada. As we landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in order to make our connection, we knew that we were in trouble simply by looking out the window – snow was blowing, flights were cancelled, people were lined up all over the airport. We soon learned that our flight too was cancelled so we quickly made arrangements to get on another flight into another city. This involved some frantic phone calls, some running through the airport, lots of waiting, and eventually, after a couple of hours sitting on a plane, we arrived at our alternate destination in Canada, and thanks to our friends, we were able to make our meetings and have a wonderful weekend enjoying the snow and beauty of Canada.
There was a moment in Chicago when my wife and I looked at each other and simply shrugged and said, “This is out of our control. If we get out, we get out. We can’t panic. We can’t get angry. We can’t whine. We can only do what we can do. We can’t control the airlines. We can’t control the weather. If we get stuck, we get stuck.”
Some of the other people on our plane and in the airport didn’t agree with our “be flexible” stance. They assumed that the poor airline employees had the power to stop the snow and get the flights moving!
Being flexible is a choice. Sometimes we want to be completely in control of all situations, and the reality is that we can’t be. There are things out of our control and we need to be responsible to do what we need to do or what we’ve committed to do, but sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them to go.
Being flexible is not an excuse for laziness.
Being flexible allows us to assess what’s coming at us, and it helps us to focus on the things we can control and to not lose it when things come that we can’t control. I want to tell you, those things will come; they always do.
Here are some reminders to be more flexible:
- Keep the big picture in mind.
Don’t forget what the ultimate goal is. Don’t get caught up in the small things. You can accomplish your goal, you might just have to come at it from a different perspective. Keep the goal at the forefront of your mind.
- Know what resources you have available.
Sometimes when we are forced to change direction, we look only at what we can do. Know who’s on your team, know what strengths your team members bring and be ready to bring them in. Sometimes in the panic, we try to do it all ourselves. Others can help if you can bring them into the process early.
- Don’t get caught in the panic or fear cycle.
Sometimes we get paralyzed when panic comes. Keep it together. Do all that you can do, and at some point, realize that it’s all you can do. Don’t freeze up.
- Learn from the process.
Problems and crises will come. Learn from the process and you’ll handle it better each time. Create some space to evaluate, to plan for and to respond to crises and situations as they change. You’ll do better next time.
Oh yeah … our luggage didn’t make it to Canada, so we had to adapt. That involved some laundry, some quick shopping at the airline’s expense, and some flexibility. We arrived home with our suitcase, some new clothes and some great memories of our adventure this weekend. It was a great time!