Boss Lady

When things don’t go as planned: Why we need to look for the gifts


When things don’t go as planned, we need to be smart and strategic. We all experience challenges, crises and success at some point over the years. Life throws us curveballs. Some are made of glass and hard to catch, some bounce off us and others seem to fall straight into our hands. How we catch (or drop) these balls when things don’t go as planned depends on our mindset, perspective, beliefs, experiences, values and other things.

How to look for the gifts when things don’t go as planned

By adopting a Gift Mindset we can embrace both the challenging and positive experiences we encounter and use these lessons or “gifts” to progress ourselves and others forward.

I believe every situation, good or bad has a gift to offer if we are open to unwrapping it.

One certainty in life is that not everything will go to plan. Many things are outside our control — look at what has happened with the Covid pandemic. If we learn to embrace unplanned situations, we put ourselves in the drivers’ seat when things don’t go as planned, ready to welcome the unwelcome and grow from the experience. The good news is, we all have the choice to own and control our thoughts and response to any situation.

Over the years, I’ve unwrapped many gifts within the unexpected situations and people I have encountered. What has helped me is to approach situations, with deeper self-awareness, viewing challenges as an opportunity to learn and progress.

Losing my Dad suddenly at 23 years old taught me the gift of resilience and gave me a zest for life that has never left me. As devasting as it was, the gift for me was to live the life my father didn’t get to live and embrace everyday with gratitude. This ignited a drive and motivation within me that has led me to do what I do today.

The gift that keeps giving

Sometime people can be a gift in disguise. Having a less than great leader at one stage in my career was almost unbearable at the time. The situation taught me a valuable lesson and that was, how not to be as a leader. I applied this lesson within multiple leadership roles and now as a leader in my business. Remember that challenging, even toxic, people can be the gifts that keep on giving. Thank them– they have given you some of your most valuable lessons.

Acceptance is key

In Buddhist philosophy, learning to accept the pain – be it an experience, our reality or certain relationships – can cause less suffering than struggling against whatever is causing our pain.

We have all been in a place at some point where we feel we are running up a steep hill, struggling against difficult situations, wishing things were different. We can spend our lives trying to change ourselves and the people around us, focusing on our past and what we don’t have and resisting what could be. Acceptance is the pathway we want to head down – it allows us to come to a place of wisdom, perspective and ultimately change.

Acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like, want, choose or even support whatever the difficulty is. It just means admitting and coming to terms with the fact that it is what it is.

In 2018, my husband and I finally called it quits after five years of trying to conceive a baby through IVF. What I learnt was that sometimes certain things aren’t meant to be. I reframed the ‘event’ of not falling pregnant, as hard as it was, to the ‘experience’ of accepting it wasn’t meant to be, for us, in this lifetime.

Looking at the situation from a higher level made me feel lighter and not as attached to the outcome. People can have an influence on the level of acceptance that takes place, in this case my 16-year-old niece. She said to me, ‘Aunty Nee, the world needs you too much, maybe that’s why it hasn’t happened.’ This stopped me in my tracks. I am a natural giver and have always thought this to be my purpose on this planet, in this lifetime – to give to others and make a difference.

Acceptance can take us from suffering to calmness and possibility – it is the vital step after self-awareness towards knowing your gifts and owning them.

To unwrap the gifts in any situation, tap into the following steps:

Awareness: A crisis or success can send us into a tornado of confusion, denial and defeat. By going through the ‘unwrapping’ process, we can see the gift in a way that serves us. Make self-reflective time to allow yourself to fully understand the situation, how you feel about it and what you could be learning.

Acceptance: Taking the path to acceptance allows in perspective and ultimately change. It is about developing a relationship with an experience that is characterised by allowing it to be what it is; registering the presence of difficult feelings and succumbing to whatever will happen next.

Action: We can’t move forward until we learn the lesson and believe what it means to us personally. Use risk-taking, making mistakes, or experiencing success, as a learning experience.  Accept and share – don’t bury it under a rug.

By looking at any unplanned experience in or out of the workplace as a gift, you can adopt a mindset and approach that everything happens for a lesson and use this to progress forward.

About Renée Giarrusso

Renée Giarrusso, author of Gift Mindset, is a communication and leadership expert. She is a speaker, trainer, mentor and a professional coach (PCC) and works with leaders, teams and organisations to energise mindset and accelerate leadership and communication to lift performance and create collaborative and connected cultures.  Find out more at,

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