Have you ever felt like you missed out on something you didn’t do because you were unsure or scared of how things might end?

Perhaps it is a wild trip you fantasize doing on your own, a date with that beautiful stranger you met once, or a needed workplace change that a colleague immediately seized upon as a “chance” while for you it was an “obstacle.”  It happens to all of us all of the time, and we usually don’t even notice until the moment is gone!

The good news is that it is still – and always is – up to you. To get closer to your goal, you just need to shift your perspective and step into the shoes of the person you need to become.

Instead of wishing for somebody to “save” you, you can take control of the situation and become that person from yourself.

Be the change you want to see in the world

Mahatma Gandhi

It was a Friday evening, and I was at an airport returning home from a business trip.  I was looking forward to enjoying the upcoming long weekend in the coziness of my home. There were clear skies over Brussels, not a single cloud in sight! But then I heard the announcement: there was a default in the IT system in the control tower, and flights began to be cancelled one after the other.

Flying home… Or else?

My flight would have been next in line, but then… My “wishful thinking” – coupled with a typical attachment, bordering to “fixation,” to whatever it is that was originally planned (a common trait to many travel fellows!) derailed my logical conclusion and… Come on! I could not possibly miss my Friday evening flight home! Right?…

Wrong! Eventually I did miss my flight, which got cancelled as well, of course. Surprise, surprise! But even knowing this might well happen in advance as all flights before mine started to get cancelled, I chose to turn away and “deny” the problem, instead of “preparing” for it.

I chose to “resist” and to stick to my plan for a cozy weekend at home, instead of being open to a new plan, and embracing the unexpected detour.  I was numbed by the “false sense of comfort” we often feel when sticking with the crowd. I realized that, while standing in a seemingly endless queue for the airport transfers, I was losing precious time in which I could get myself organized and take things in my own hands.

The moment you hear your flight is… “Just” delayed.

Come on! I am a lawyer and should know what my passenger rights are in case of cancelled flights and, when in doubt, check for information and options on the Internet instead of sending helpless status updates to my family from my mobile! In fact, if you think about it, many times we choose to rely on the help and questionable expertise of complete strangers rather than proactively search for a ready solution ourselves.

And, this might come handy to the travelers among you: in case of any delayed or cancelled flights often you might have right to compensation – except in the event of “force majeure” outside the airline’s control – and, if the delay causes you to stay overnight, you have the right to lodging, including transport from/to the airport, and food.

When time “freezes”: Staring at the flight information board – Your flight has been “cancelled”… But that cannot possibly be! Or can it?

So, here are your options:

  1. Wait at the transfer desk for hours on end, and eventually you shall get everything organized for you (most likely by an exhausted transfer desk employee with the misfortune to be “in charge” that day. Eventually you shall be “taken care of” by being shepherded to the next nearby hotel where you will arrive along with all the other misfortunates, feeling exhausted and grumpy, eventually being shown to another queue to finally be checked into your room.
  2. You might take things into your own hands and think ahead. Check what your options are, and, assuming that you are going to be reimbursed later anyway, pick a nice hotel to your liking:
    – Either around the airport for the next morning flight (most airlines will give you an easy option to rebook online yourself in case of delayed or cancelled flights).
    – Or, even better, head straight downtown, into the heart of a lively city center unaffected by the airport chaos – Amuse yourself by hanging out with the locals! You might even strategically choose to take a slightly later flight the next day (which you can bet will be far less crowded than the first available ones directly in the morning!). Have a good night’s sleep and a leisurely morning, recharging your batteries to be ready for a great start into for the new day ahead.
Flight cancelled? Plan B – How about chilling out with the locals in Brussels?

When we pursue the second course of action, we are shaking off the “false sense of comfort” that we feel when we blindly conform to other people’s instructions and meekly follow the crowd. And when we act consciously and take matters into our own hands, we are likely to be better off anyway.

Sometimes good things fall apart, so that better things can fall together

Marilyn Monroe

In fact, we can apply this rule of thumb to most areas of our life.
Think about something as  ordinary as cooking, for example: You can bet that, provided you have rudimentary skills, whatever you cook yourself will be better and healthier than if it is cooked for you, either in a can or in an ordinary restaurant.
So why relying on other people’s help more than our own?

After all, while in circumstances where we have a choice, who is better suited to taking care of yourself, to having your best interests at heart and to knowing your needs, than yourself? A complete stranger?

All you need to do is assume with confidence that, if another person can do it, you can as well. You shall rise to your own expectations by taking things into your own hands.

  1. Imagine the person you would wish by your side helping you, acting with confidence even (especially!) in stressful situations…
  2. Now: Be that person!

Think of any of your fond memories or fun stories you love telling your friends. Indeed, looking back, the things that we remember most are often the unexpected ones, aren’t they?

Rather than merely “reacting” to unexpected developments by looking at them as “inconveniences,” we shall embrace the unplanned “detours” as little adventures in our life – If for no other reason, because it is more fun! So, when confronted with changes, keep an open mind.

Let the unplanned perk your day up!

Speaking of “perks,” in my own story I certainly did not expect what happened next! But after call it did not turned out as an unpleasant surprise at all…

When I checked in at this (seriously, this is my own picture!) fancy Chinese-style hotel, all by myself…
Just before it got overtaken by the mob of other “stranded” guests – Sent by “courtesy” of the airline. Timing can be everything!

Indeed, my unexpected “detour” ultimately brought me to one of the most exotic Chinese hotels in the area (even though I was in Belgium!). The hotel happened to be part of a luxury Chinese chain with very peculiar, quite authentic decor that I have never seen in any other Western hotel! The food was absolutely delicious and appealing to the eyes. I have no idea what I ate, but it tasted wonderful. I even met a jovial fellow traveler and we spent a wonderful evening dining together. All of this “courtesy” of the airline, of course!

Celebrating the detour with a glass of wine?

The next morning, just before heading back to the airport, and before a plentiful breakfast as exotic and delightful as the dinner the evening before, I even took full advantage of a semi-Olympic pool that I had to myself.

Luckily I always bring my swimming suit along… You never know when your next flight is cancelled – and where the stopover adventure may take you!

Probably no other guest had the energy for exercising left in them after the agonizing queue at the transfer desk just the day before, the one I strategically skipped when I picked and reached my hotel of choice with no intermediaries to do it for me.

So, next time something does not go according to plan, remember: go and seize the opportunity that might be waiting for you just around the corner. What we make out of any experience is always up to us.

Be a game changer!
The “secret” is: turn the unknown into adventure – And fear into excitement…