Plan to Pivot

If there is one thing I will never forget in this life, it is that plans change. The COVID-19 pandemic was probably one of our most recent and hardest examples of this fact. I remember starting the year 2020 excited to enter the new decade. I believed it would be a year of celebrations, travel, and success. However, most of us were faced with the harsh reality that the pandemic would result in deaths worldwide, lockdowns, and restrictions in almost every aspect of our lives. Since then, we have witnessed the visual poetry of the words “our lives are not our own”. Although it seems that we are finally recovering and hopefully reaching the end of this devastation, I hope we never forget the lessons that we have learned during this time. A major lesson being to Plan to Pivot.  

Sometimes we can be so rigid in our plans that we panic when things change instead of pivot. Panic is defined as an uncontrollable fear or anxiety that affects your behavior or thinking. If you have experienced this sensation before, you know it is uncomfortable! You must remember that we are on an earth filled with so many moving pieces that it is impossible to think you control it all (I know that is a tough one to swallow for my control-freaks). But hear me out: there is only so much you can plan for. I went to a leadership seminar this past summer called Iron Sharpens Iron, and one of the conference speakers shared how their church has been managing their processes throughout the pandemic. He said that pre-COVID, they were able to plan months and years in advance for their church, but due to the aftermath of this pandemic, they now only plan in 3-month sprints. This allows them to be flexible while still feeling prepared for the upcoming year. I remember admiring this and thinking that all that we have experienced would have been wasted if we did not learn actionable lessons for our future.  

To pivot ultimately means to change direction when whatever you were doing before no longer works or fits your needs. This concept is something that everyone should adopt even if you do not plan on owning a business. When you plan to pivot, you no longer leave room for panic because you have an idea of your next best steps. You want to avoid being left at the mercy of bad planning or lack of anticipation. In my conference example, this organization was determined not to panic, but to pivot and change how they planned for the upcoming year. Instead of complaining about how unorganized things might be, they restructured their thinking and found a new approach that has worked so far.  

Again, pivoting is not only useful in business. This year, I planned a birthday trip with my husband and another couple. Let’s rewind to several months ahead of today where I changed my last name and decided to change it on my passport as well. I looked at the estimated processing time, did my calculations, and reasoned that it was safe to send in my passport application. A few weeks before my travel date, I noticed that I still had not received my passport in the mail. At this point, everyone was so excited about this trip, and I did not want my passport to be the reason our plans fell through. This is the moment where we as humans like to start panicking. “Should I start cancelling the flights?” “Wow… all that planning for nothing.” “I don’t even see my passport application moving in the system!” I want to use this very true story (which has a happy ending) to discuss how to pivot.  

  1. Everything starts in the mind 
    • This is not a cliché. How you think and the thoughts you allow to grow affect your brain and your mood. When an unexpected situation happens, the first thing you should check is your thoughts because this will control your next move. The moment I noticed that time was no longer on my side, and my passport was not delivered, I needed to harness my thoughts as quickly as possible. If I started to allow those feelings of doubt and anxiety to grow, they may have affected my willingness to pivot. My trip depended on my ability to think fast and not get caught up in negativity. Repeat positive words to yourself daily concerning your situation. Whatever you do, remain hopeful about it, and constantly tell yourself “We will figure this out”. I am not saying that positive thinking is the direct pathway to success, but it opens your heart to possibilities versus discouragement.

  2. Research your way out
    • Anytime you are in a situation (after feeling all the inevitable emotions), you have to remind yourself that it is time to move! Pivoting is an action that goes beyond getting your mind in a good space. You need to try to mitigate or completely change the situation, and that starts with research. Research is not limited to a google search—this can be talking to friends or family, reading a book, or even just stopping to think and allowing your brain (your personal computer) to do some digging. In my case, it was remembering that I took a picture of my passport application and going back to find information about the agency I mailed it to. From there, it was phone calls (several hours on hold) and reading some helpful articles to find out that I just needed to schedule an appointment at a passport agency to get expedited (same-day) service. Imagine if I had let my initial fears cause me to cancel my trip? My friend later shared that her sister was in a similar situation about a year ago and had to reschedule their flights. Research is your best bet into finding out all your options. Exhaust all possibilities so that you at least know where you stand. 

  3. Go for no
    • In my blog, The Student Remains a Student,I briefly shared the book Go for No by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz which ended up helping me in this situation. Although this book is typically aimed at salespeople, the concept is powerful: Go for No! In some situations, it helps to be persistent and strategic. When I was looking for passport agencies, the website said that I had to have an appointment in order to come in. The appointment system was even crazier than trying to get a PS5 last season. I was up super early to refresh my browser constantly for an available slot. I did that for a few days, and I was starting to get a bit worried. But I remembered point 2– RESEARCH. This led me to read reviews on my local passport agency, and some of them encouraged me to go directly to the office first thing in the morning and ask to be seen. Some of the reviews advised not to even try that, but I was determined to “Go for no!” Long story short, going in-person not only secured my appointment, but I was also in and out of the agency within an hour.  

I know it is natural to panic or have anxiety when you are greeted with bad news. Planning to pivot means you are willing to make a move that will change your circumstances. This week’s challenge is a personal one: Find your most effective de-stressor and phrase that helps you remain positive. For me, I like to take drives or write when I feel myself begin to worry. Usually, this leads me to pray, and I always tell myself “God is in control.” What will you do or say to yourself when issues arise? Plan for this now, so that when the unavoidable happens, you pivot.