Have you ever got into a situation where you did not want to end up because some part of your plan failed up miserably? Chances are that you did, and not once. In fact, probably every time you have prepared a detailed plan for a day, it ended up not fulfilling completely. The higher level of detail you have introduced to your plan, the more the plan has deviated off the reality afterwards.

If you strive to build something, you probably plan your steps daily. I was able to to observe, that the effect of this plan deviation tends to get lower the longer the time period it spans and this makes a complete sense to me. Even though I am able to make a perfect plan down to hours or even minutes for the next day, I am not able to create such a detailed plan for a five year time span. My plan for a year usually has just a few points and a plan for a five year always contains just one ultimate goal.

Yesterday I have identified one trait that helps me keep the right attitude towards life, when things do not go as planned. I had a plan for a whole day. It included multiple people and multiple places, but it also included some aspects that were out of my control.

The plan

Together with my girlfriend we went to a friend's cottage to meet some old friends in a car that I have borrowed from my father. Thus, let me present the glorious wonder that I have composed in the morning before. A master plan in which every single piece fits together like a puzzle. Just kidding, it is just an ordered list of the tasks for the next day:

  1. Wake up at 06:00
  2. Do 50 pull-ups
  3. Prepare breakfast
  4. Leave the cottage at 08:00
  5. Leave the car parked near the bus station, where my father would pick it Up
  6. Take the bus to the major city at 09:00 and there taking another bus to The small town, arriving at 11:20
  7. Wait there till 11:50 for another bus to take us to the destination at 12:57
  8. Be picked up with the relative at the station to have a family lunch Around 13:00
  9. Spend some time with the family
  10. Borrow a car from that relative and leave at 16:00
  11. Enjoy the event in the city at 19:00
  12. Sleep in a bed at home at 22:00

I had this list prepared before we came to the party, so we could focus on the activities with the company during the evening there. As you can see, the next day there was no much time left, except for the morning. I was not sure that someone else would be up so early in the morning anyway, so I did not count on it.

It was a long, hot summer evening. When every piece of meal was either eaten or burnt, and most of the folks decided to go to bed, we two did the same, leaving but the most persistent guys around the fire. I did check that my alarm was set up, brushed my teeth and laid down, prepared for the next day.

The execution

The list is pretty simple and straightforward, don't you think? I did. How many of the points there do you think went out as planned? Just a few to be honest. Some came pretty close but either time or the place was different for every single point in the list. Here is the breakdown of the events:

  1. Alarm did wake me up. To my amazement, it was not a generic Motorola alarm playing from my phone, the sun was not visible, as it should be at 06:00 this time of the year and my girlfriend seemed too scared. No, the time was 03:33, we were still in the cottage and the alarm was a radio receiver / MP3 player in the next room playing Englishman in New York at full volume.

    Completely asleep, I just turned the volume down to the lowest, calmed down my girlfriend and comforted myself under the blankets, falling asleep soon after.

    Another alarm. My phone was not making the sound again. The time was 04:33. That damn thing next room was on the full volume again. I still do not know if it was a joke of some kind or someone visiting before us really needed to make sure everyone would wake up. This time I had to switch on the lights to end this nonsense once for all. I have unplugged the device shaped like a large brick off the wall. Strangely, it had an Ethernet port on the back. Why on Earth does an MP3 player in the cottage somewhere in the woods needs the LAN connection? I was too asleep still to investigate. Maybe it has an UPNP / DLNA functionality, so Kodi can stream music there...

    I woke up when the sun shining through the windows touched my face. My phone was showing the time 07:13. I must had turned off the alarm during the sleep. Well, this is going to be tight, I thought.

  2. The pull-ups were skipped immediately. No time for that. I could still prepare the breakfast in time with some corner-cutting.

  3. It took me some time to find any kind of fat for cooking. As I suspected, everyone was still sleeping. The only thing I could find without waking anyone up was almost empty bottle of vegetable oil in the next cottage, but it served. Yet another alarm. 07:30, girlfriend's phone. I waked her up gently, with the smell of the eggs my father gave me as a gift before we left. These smelled really good. They were laid by some four chicken he is keeping in the yard himself. You won't buy them in the supermarket.

    The coffee making machine had it's fair share of surprises as well. I am always amazed by the variety of machines that can make coffee. As is the case most of the time, I wasn't familiar with this machine either. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to fill up the water tank, how to insert the capsule in and how to start the coffee brewing process itself, even though it only had one button. It took too long till I finally realized that I had to push the same button again to stop the process only when I had a third ever larger cup filled with a white creamy liquid. I did expect an actual coffee to appear at some point, but it didn't. Just to be sure, I quickly took the Latte Machiato capsule apart. There was no brown substance there. I should have rather try to find out about that LAN port on the radio.

    I gave the first cup of the coffee to my GF, which I thought had most of the contents that capsule contained and hoped for the best. She made some comments about the it's color. Apparently, I was not alone to expect coffee to not look snow white. Overall, the breakfast was a success anyway, expect that it ended at 08:10.

  4. We still had plenty of time to get to the bus station, I thought. Not too quick. The last visitor that came blocked the entrance road with his car. Luckily, he was sleeping in the hallway in his own sleeping bag, keys of the car beside him. I should not just taken someone else's car and ridden it without a question. I wanted to catch that bus, so I just swapped the cars and gave the keys back where I have picked them.

  5. We have arrived at the station at 08:42, father not being there. This is not a kind of country where you can leave your property unchecked wherever you please, being sure you find it at the same place in the same condition every time. The make the matters worse, the station was frequent with people notorious by borrowing the stuff, the same manner I did half hour earlier, with one exception: they generally do not politely return it back. I believe there is a point in the future Slovakia will not be known by this kind of behavior anymore, but for now it sadly still holds true.

    Should have I left the keys inside the car hoping father gets there sooner than some curious, unwelcome visitor? And what bus station platform were we supposed to wait on? I did not have time to really think. It was not a large bus station, but still, there are 14 platforms and you can In fact miss the bus not standing on the right platform. Not easy, but possible. Fortunately, father came in time and GF found out which platform to use.

  6. The bus was new, having magnificent details, such as matched curtains of alternating colors, head rest made of leather or the point lights in the ceiling one can use to read that resembled sport's car headlights. This all was a pleasing compensation for a slightly higher price the bus tickets cost us. We have left the station at 09:07 instead of 09:00. It would be no problem, in the major city we were headed, we would wait for 25 minutes till the next bus we wanted to take would left. 7 minutes delay was not a problem at all.

    The problem was, that the day before we have learned that the road we are going to take was half-destroyed less than two weeks before. Heavy rain caused a nearby river to go wild, taking human made objects as well as small rodents succumbing to inevitable death with it, without asking for a permission. Even before I knew this, during the planing phase, I was considering an alternative route that had one less hop, but relied on buses being on time to the minute. This route offered us comfort of this shiny new bus we were sitting in for full two hours, not just some 20 minutes.

    We took the risk of not being able to catch the connecting bus, when this one is delayed for too long. For this purpose, I have even emailed a bus dispatcher responsible for the connecting bus on this alternate route with a gentle request to wait for us. He had replied, that the bus driver was informed and he would make his best, promising some 4 minutes wait.

    We were already decided that we are taking that alternative route. I could not find reliable information if the route we wanted to take in the first place was currently even available. If so, it probably used some other roads, going right through the heart of the national park. The bus driver would need to pull off some nice zig-zagging maneuvers to get us through, considering how hard was to navigate the now destroyed road, even when it was functional.

    Remember that 7 minutes delay already? I was nervous. This bus was a long distance one. They have a planned stop for a 15 minutes in some major cities it goes through, this one being one of it. Passengers can use this stop to refresh themselves. The driver can also use it to reset the delay that accumulated since last such stop. Although the driver removed the delay even before we got the station, and left the station exactly on time he was supposed to, knowing that when such a timetable shift happens near the station we were supposed to take the connecting bus, the 4 minutes we were promised would not save us.

    Long story short, we got to the station at 11:12. This bus, as well as the connecting bus should leave this city's station exactly at 11:00. We did wonder if the bus driver waited for us. I felt a little pity for the people in that bus who were spending more time sitting there, not knowing why the bus is not moving. We may never find out.

  7. Suddenly, we were in the city we did not really wanted to be, knowing there is not another connection for another two hours. All other plans we had were now broken.

    But it was not end of the world, not at all. It was around lunch time, the sun was shining, there was just enough wind to be refreshing. We had still have enough food and water with us. Two nature loving, backpacker spirits as we are, without much thinking we headed into the nearby park, marked in the phone maps.

    To our great surprise, it had not one, but two different sets of workout grounds, as well as free-of-charge toilet booths. These booths are commonly present in the construction sites or on summer festivals, yet here they were in the small park. It also had a playground for a children and a driving school simulation for the kids as well.

    I took a few moments to look around just to realize my girlfriend is already inspecting one of the workout fields. Somehow we have both packed swimsuits, so we dressed it up to not make our clothes all sweaty, tuned some music on a reliable JBL GO and got to work.

    Exercising in the noon is exhausting. But I had my 50 pull-ups I could not do in the morning finished before the lunch and I was happy. We still had plenty of time left. Already in the swimsuits, we dived straight in the river flowing through the city. The stream was strong and it was crystal clear, with a spring somewhere in the mountains surrounding the city. The locals looked upon us with a strange expression on their face, but we both felt great. It was so relieving. If it was a life hazard, we are about to find out.

    This is the point where I had an insight, which led me to writing this post down. I will now focus on the good little details the life provides even in the bad situation. Even though our plans were further disrupted down the road, out mood stayed positive. I had a call with a father, who was curious if we did catch that bus. I have explained him that fortunately, we did not. He reminded to me similar situations he went through, and that he tried to pass this winner attitude to me all the time, with me realizing just now. He is my hero!

I will omit all the details from the rest of that day. Yeah, we were not picked up in time to have a family lunch. It was more like a family dinner. We also did not attend the planned event in the evening. We were trying to get there to at least show up, but it was already getting late. Heavy rain together with strong wind swayed us to to a small village somewhere along the road, as we were both really tired. We did got to bed at around 21:45, thus falling asleep around 22:00. Yeah, just as planned, yet the place was different.

Wrapping up

This is a short story describing how I learned to become more positive in my life. This is not an exceptional story. It might not be that inspirational to you either. Yet it might be relatable to you. If you ever feel that nothing is going according to plan, you might just be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a little space to enjoy the moment, and you may realize that failing to hit all the small little daily goals does not mean you are not on the track. The circumstances change all the time. People can behave irresponsibly. Technology can became unresponsive. Whatever happens, focus more on your long-term goals. They provide greater picture. Overall, if you note your small wins and check them against your long-term goals, it can surely give you a needed boost when the times are bleaky. Stay focused on the positives and the negatives will suddenly become less of an obstacle. With this attitude, even the most ordinary people can achieve great results. Stay positive, enjoy the moment.