On Interruptions and Shared Experience

There are two types of vacationers: the planner and the improviser. While on a trip, I would like to think of myself as an improviser, the truth is that any spontaneity is scheduled into my plans. One person researches well in advance the best sites, restaurants, and things to do in a new city. He breaks down the modes of transportation by their pros and cons. There is a schedule developed to extract the most amount of enjoyment from each day. Another person wakes up in a new place and ventures out to “see where the day takes us.” They two people often end up marrying each other. They are two different ways to experience a vacation, both with varying degrees of merit. If we are being honest, they are also two different ways of going through life.

When it comes to the adventure we call life, I would venture that more of us gravitate toward the “planning” side of the spectrum. We have goals, desires, dreams, or at least an idea of what we hope our future will include. The older we get, the more we realize that while we can keep the same end goals in mind, the road to our future is as unpredictable as the weather. The best laid plans are often interrupted by unimaginable twists and turns. How we navigate those interruptions can determine our future even more than the plans we so meticulously lay out. I would go so far to claim that the interruptions in life and how we react to them are actually some of the most important aspects of our human experience.

There was the trip where the car broke down in the desert, but our group had most amazing time playing silly games on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. An important presentation by my team began with the technology not working and having to improvise an even more impressive and persuasive demonstration. Times when I didn’t pass the test, get the job, or make the deal have often led to even more pleasing outcomes than I could have controlled or anticipated. I’m sure if you look back on your life, you have many similar moments.

The shared experiences we have with others due to unforeseen and seemingly negative interruptions are so pivotal in our lives that I have even started to root for them, even as a natural “planner.”  My closest friends know that I am secretly rooting for interruptions in every most any circumstance. In an elevator full of strangers, would it really be that bad if we got stuck for a couple hours and had to see what happened? Would it really be that awful if our flight got cancelled and we had to spend the night in the airport making up games to pass the time? Would it be the worst thing in the world if it rains on the one day you were planning to be at the beach? Or are each of those supposedly terrible outcomes just opportunities for an even more memorable and shaping experience?

Perhaps the plans sometimes need to rule the day. But I challenge you to also be open to the interruptions. Use them to your advantage. See them as gifts of an opportunity and experience that you otherwise never would have. A new way to view interruptions changes your outlook on life and can have a lasting impact being able to find the joy in every experience. Our interruptions do not have to become disruptions.


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