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When something goes wrong, how do you respond?

Last Thursday morning I read that opening line in Seth Godin’s blog, and I had to laugh.

A few minutes earlier I’d received an email from the associate pastor of my church, letting me know the food and preparations we’d made to serve the congregation between services on Easter Sunday had to be cancelled due to flood damage.  Calls had to be made, food orders cancelled, and apologies delivered to the folks who had already prepared food and rearranged their schedules to help.

It was by no means the end of the world, but a few years ago I would have been grumbling to myself about all the phone calls I had to make, worrying whether the food orders could be cancelled without a charge, and resenting the fact that unplanned ‘to-do’s’ had been added to my list.

The filing deadline for individual income taxes was approaching, and as usual we had last minute CPA questions, retirement plan contributions, and other issues our clients needed our help with before they could file.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but a few years ago a disruption in the middle of ‘busy season’ would have put me in high-stress mode.  So what’s different now?

I’m no longer on thin ice.

If you feel you can’t handle one more thing, or you’ve convinced yourself the success or failure of every project is solely up to you, a little disruption in your day’s plan can feel like a major setback.

On the other hand, when you’re surrounded by a strong team of coworkers and you’re all pulling in the same direction to help clients and each other, surprises don’t create unnecessary stress.

Life hasn’t changed, just my ability to cope with it.  It works the same way when it comes to finances.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck you have no room for error.  An unexpected car repair incites panic, adds to your credit card debt, and leaves you with a sinking feeling you’ll never get your spending under control.

When your retirement plan is shaky, a day’s drop in the stock market leaves a sick feeling in your stomach.  You feel pressure to take more risk with your investments, in the hopes you can make up for losses, or trade more often to try to create gains.

You’re skating on thin ice.

Tools like YNAB can help you get ahead of your bills, so you’re no longer living paycheck to paycheck.  TAAG clients can use TAAG 360° to track their spending vs. their budget, and adjust before a shortfall creates an emergency.

When you’re approaching retirement, a well-thought-out plan gives you time to practice your spending plan to make sure it’s reasonable, and create a savings cushion to provide room for the surprises that life inevitably presents.

When you don’t feel threatened, and something goes wrong, your emotions don’t take control and cause you to respond in a way that only makes things worse.

It’s never too late to make a change, to adjust your actions and plans so you’re no longer skating on thin ice.

How about now?