Death of a Plan from a Master Planner

Heather Lowey
5 min readAug 12, 2021
Scrabble letters spelling out TO DO above a blank post it note.

DEATH OF A PLAN VS. GRIEF

When you think of a plan, what comes to mind? Is it dreams you have been aspiring towards for as long as you can remember? Maybe it’s something as detailed out as a birth plan for your first child with the doctor. Plans for your business which were imploded by the year known as 2020. Even the planned trajectory for your career… X job for two years, Y job for three, and then the pinnacle of Z job being ideal by a particular year.

The best laid plans. All legit plans.

For me, who I would consider a master planner — to a fault — plans are shaped up by TO DO lists. Rounded out with a secondary and even tertiary TO DO list for the TO DO lists. It’s sickening.

But what happens when plans change? Moreover, dare I say, the DEATH of a plan?

Do you get angry? Or conversely, do you slip into some sort of mourning period? Better yet, you may even go into the 5 stages of grief.

While it may seem callous to compare a plan not coming to fruition in the same realm as death and grieving, give me the opportunity to shed light on this ironic connection.

THE PLANNED CAREER

In order to set the stage for this explanation, imagine for a moment this scenario. You work at THE Widget company and have for 7 years. It’s been a great ride. Promotions every couple of years. Rave reviews. Even get brought into conversations a level or two above you because “the force is strong in this one.”

Without a doubt, your plan for being on the executive team at THE Widget company is in your control and well on its way.

Nevertheless, one day you come into work and your beloved boss is leaving. THE Widget company brings in a new person who is now your boss. Despite all your efforts, their ideal employee vision and YOU seem to differ. In fact, they are completely opposite.

You like to plan, prepare, understand the space inside and out before making decisions.

In contrast, your new boss makes seemingly knee-jerk reactions. Furthermore, has a soft spot for your co-worker, who you always tolerated but find quite unorganized and often irritatingly without a plan.

STAGE 1- DENIAL

Then the shoe drops. Your boss has decided to promote someone within the team in a strategic move to support new business opportunities. And not just any someone. Your unorganized co-worker someone has been nominated to take this senior role. Being viewed as having a lot of potential for creative, outside the box thinking.

Denial.

“This cannot be happening to me.”

The death of your dream to run the department.

“My co-worker can never live up to what is needed in a role like this!”

“This will never happen, and the executive team will realize how ludicrous this entire set up is.”

STAGE 2- ANGER

Consequently, a few days pass and you move beyond the denial of this. In fact, it’s happening, and you are straight up angry about the situation. Livid at all humans involved in this fiasco.

“My co-worker is a complete bonehead, I’m so mad my talents and all of the years of work I put into this place aren’t even recognized!”

Anger can come out in two ways.

Internally, through thoughts and feelings. Angry thoughts. Resentment and hatred coursing through your veins as you consider what a future state will look like under this leadership.

Additionally, the anger can come out externally through defiance and even blame.

“I will not report into this idiot for another day. And I refuse to take part in any of the shenanigans my co-worker initiates.”

STAGE 3- BARGAINING

However, after a weekend to think about this, you begin to wonder if there is an opportunity. Bargaining.

“If I play the game and go along with this sham for a few months, they will surely see the error of their ways and come running for me to save the day.”

Bargaining on two levels.

First, with self about the amount of time you can sustain and save face before you leave. Two months, six months, a year? You don’t have another job lined up so they kind of have you by the “you know what” until you get your s**t together.

The second bargaining chip being with other co-workers. Bargaining for their alliance in what has become the corporate plot to kill your plans and dreams.

Are they friend or foe? Who will be with on your side when you make THE sudden defiant triumph?

STAGE 4- DEPRESSION

As time presses on, it’s evident this new structure is shifting the culture and being adopted by even your friends. Instead of feeling excited or even hopeful in this, you have an overwhelming sense of despair about the death of what was.

“Why can’t things just go back to the way they used to be?”

Maybe as the team gets together in this new collaborative culture, you continue to deny yourself the pleasure of experiences with the team. Remaining steadfast in your sadness over what could have been.

Feeling extremely down even while those around you collectively rise up.

STAGE 5- ACCEPTANCE

Finally, you reach a stage of acceptance. This scenario can also be two-fold but either way is deeply impactful.

First, you could accept what is and decide to drink the Kool-Aid. The team seems to be enjoying themselves in this new environment and leadership style. Curiosity kicks in and you open yourself up into the vulnerable place of sharing in this joy.

Whether through word or deed, you adjust course, learn, and evolve. Your plan also evolves but you are accepting of the trajectory it is having and dare you say, enjoy being increasingly nimble.

The second option is you accept what is and decide it’s not the place for you anymore. As such, you adjust your plan. In particular, you decide to run TO something new, not run AWAY from what is.

There is a key distinction in acceptance. Quitting the job in anger, frustration, and even sadness has you running away from something, not clearly thinking about what you are running to.

On the other hand, leaving a role when you have accepted and gone through the proper mourning, typically means you have already mentally made another plan. This plan involves running TO something new for yourself while also having clarity of mind.

SUMMARY

The next time you experience the death of a plan, remember this:

It is perfectly acceptable to grieve what was once your plan. Work through the grieving stages and come out the other side stronger than you realized you could be. The key being to ensure you are MOVING THROUGH the stages though.

Whatever plan you have today feeling like it’s hanging on the end of a dying vine, take pause.

Are you stuck in one of the 5 stages of grieving?

How can you process the death of the plan you once had and now accept what is?

There may just be an even better plan around the corner you want to RUN TO.

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Heather Lowey

Life & Leadership Coach, President of the Lowey Fraternity House (See www.TheMomHuddle.com), and Lifetime Learner