Don’t Let Disruptions Get You Down

I’m sitting here with a quickly cooling cup of tea and hoping to bust out the tiniest bit of work tasks before my children come home early due to snow and my husband (likely) comes home early having been furloughed from his job until…well…Congress.

It’s days like this when I often start thinking I need to throw in the towel and just call this day a wash. As anyone who works from home (and I’m including ALL expat spouses whether their job pays them or not because it is work!), one little wrench in the plan can leave you scrambling to rework your schedule. Alternatively, you simply curl up and watch movies.

But – it doesn’t have to be that way. Disruptions big (a serious illness in the family) and small (snow days) – can actually be perfect opportunities to learn. When we’re breezing through and everything seems easy – we may find ourselves on autopilot. That feels good for a while, but sometimes having our environment a little disrupted gives us the opportunity to stop and re-evaluate.

What sorts of lessons is disruption trying to teach you today?

There’s more than one way to do things.

I go to a semi-regular networking coffee in Shibuya. The walk is about 40 minutes from my house. I always walk because it’s pleasant and I enjoy the time to think. But today – with snow threatening and an early release from school pending – I knew I needed to think again about the timing of my day. A couple of shifts (namely taking the train and committing myself to leaving the coffee by 11:00AM) means I’m home in time to get a bit of work in.

Disruption breeds creativity.

Okay, so this is kind of similar to the one above, but it’s really a layer deeper. When we’re out of our regular routine, we may notice things we hadn’t seen before. Take a different route, rework a familiar pattern, see a different angle. Disruption helps us notice new things and that gets our creative juices flowing. Take this blog post for example – definitely the outcome of an unexpected disruption!

Pay attention to your emotions.

The natural feeling of frustration that comes from being interrupted in our planned activities is a cue for us to tune in and pay attention to how we’re feeling. Instead of forcing ourselves into a preconceived box (“I was going to do this. It was going to be this way and I was going to feel like X.”), we now have to ask, “How am I really feeling here?” We may even find the disruption was exactly what we needed to slow down and really see what’s going on inside our hearts.

It’s easier to be mindful when things look different.

Think about all those places you drive without thinking or the tasks you mindlessly complete because you’ve done them a thousand times. When our plans shift because of unexpected circumstances – we have to stand back and pay attention. Problem-solving mode requires us to really focus and to evaluate the whole scene. We can then ask ourselves – Do I scrap this or simply make a small adjustment?

You’re really good at disruption!

Do I need to tell you this? You may hate it, but you’re amazing at it because (assuming you’re an expat) you do it all the time. So, while you may not always feel like a breezy-go-with-the-flow sort of person – it’s in you. Maybe today you don’t need to sweat the disruption all that much. Maybe you could even lay back and put on a little Netflix. No matter what, past experience confirms that it’s within your power to plug along or make a change.

What else can disruption teach you? Are you awake and listening? Are you staying curious, asking questions, coming back again and again to see a different angle?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you handle disruption.

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