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Recently, I relocated to another State and have been busy with all of the tasks that go along with a long-distance move – renting a U-haul, packing and unpacking, change of address forms, new insurance, a driver’s license, car registration, parking permits, bank accounts, etc.   If you haven’t moved in a while, the list of changes is vast.

What I’ve been reminded of during this process is that no matter how careful I am while planning, I usually forget the most important thing of all:

Plan for 30% of everything to go wrong.

Despite making lists, getting an early start, and double-checking, some things will go wrong.  The U-haul won’t be ready for pick up.  Your agent will forget to submit the new insurance policy.  The change of address won’t be processed on your credit card.  The freight elevator will be double-booked. And so on.

It’s almost inevitable – about 30% of the things we do will get messed up, despite our best efforts and attempts to be diligent.  It’s called life.

One of the biggest sources of stress in our daily lives is when we expect things to go a certain way and they don’t.  If we plan to leave the house very early to avoid traffic, but we hit a jam anyway, it tends to feel even more frustrating than the normal daily grind we expect to experience in rush hour.

And further, unexpected negative experiences tend to have a larger impact than equivalent unexpected positive experiences.  For example, we will stew longer if we lose $10, than we will celebrate if we find $10.  We can thank our biological make-up for this (for survival, it’s more important to imprint negative experiences so that we avoid them in the future).

So, what can we do?  We live in a world full of clerical errors, system glitches and plain bad luck, so more planning isn’t the solution and will likely only lead to greater expectations and thus, greater frustration if things go wrong.

My recommendation is to plan for 30% of things in life to go wrong.  While it may sound a little cynical at first, it has helped me to manage my expectations, reduce my self-bashing (Could I have done something more???), and give me a little extra cushion of time to deal with any problems.

And in those cases where luck was on my side and almost everything went as planned, reality exceeded my expectations.  That always has a positive impact (even if it doesn’t linger as long as the negative ones!).

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