The Importance of Flexibility

I had to mail a package to a friend for her birthday today, and I was inspired early this morning to just it done. Before it was even eight o’clock I felt the itch to get up and moving (but not inspired enough to change out of my pajamas), so I looked up which Post Offices near me featured self-service kiosks.

Happy to find that there was one not too far (in fact, the second nearest!), I swapped my previous plan of walking up later in the day for the new plan of driving over immediately to just get it done.

Of course, this meant there was traffic (there is always traffic), and when I arrived, shortly after 8 am, I was annoyed to discover that the self-service was only currently equipped to dispense stamps in fifty-cent packs. WHAT? I tried, several times, to force the machine into submission by punching my selection on the machine harder each time; and even going back out the car to let the machine “rest” and “reset” and then trying again. Of course, no luck.

And of course, I was annoyed. I looked at the clock. 8:14. The rest of the Post Office didn’t open for another 16 minutes—which, at this point, seemed like an eternity. My dog, whom I’d brought along for the “quick” ride, was barking her head off at some other dude who had now arrived and was seemingly also waiting for the opening of the office, and I wondered how I’d ever pass the time.

In the next 16 torturous minutes, other people began to arrive to also wait for the Post Office to open. A man who waited in his car; a mother with a baby half her size strapped to her chest. She entered the lobby of the building, waiting by the locked interior door. Then the man my dog was barking at followed. Well, fuck. Soon the man from the car next to me walked into the lobby, too. These people quickly became my enemies the closer to 8:30 it got. I had been the first one there. I had looked up the self-service kiosk hours. I had done everything right. I deserved to be first in line!!!!! My blood boiled.

But of course, I wasn’t. I was fourth. And of course, the woman with the baby didn’t have her label ready, and then man after her needed to buy stamps and then attach those stamps to the whole stack of letters he had in his hand. As I stood in line, I realized my reaction was way too intense for the situation. It was still early in the morning. I was still getting my package out in plenty of time to get to my friend. (Actually, when I checked the receipt after it was mailed, I noticed that it was arriving 5 days earlier than it “needed” to get there.) So why I was freaking the fuck out?

Because things didn’t go my way.

Well, too fucking bad.

Something I tell my clients all the time is that it’s important to make a plan, but it’s just as important to be flexible within that plan. Because life happens (the kiosk is broken, other people –gasp! —also want to use the Post Office, but those people maybe aren’t prepared, your dog is barking, you didn’t get enough sleep and were out of coffee so you’re cranky, etc. etc.).

What I failed to do this morning was to be really flexible. When the kiosk was broken, I had options---I could’ve gone home and walked up to the Post Office like I originally planned, or decided to make the most of the 16—16! —minutes I had to wait. I also could’ve driven to another location with a kiosk and hoped that one was working. Instead, I sat there being salty that my plan hadn’t worked out exactly how I wanted it to. * I pouted through the eight or so minutes it took from the time the Post Office opened and I got through the line and mailed out my package. I decided to view my situation as a “waste” of time rather than a victory of still getting my package out almost an hour before my regular location even opened and getting my gift to my friend five days early.

So, let me be a lesson. Plan, but be flexible. Strategy is beneficial, rigidity is not.

To learn more about how you can develop a plan that builds in some flexibility, make an appointment now.


*if you still believe that coaches have perfect lives and never mess up, this should change your mind.