When the Prime Minister of Malaysia (where I live) announced a Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 16th, my partner and I had no idea how restrictive it was going to be because we have set the date to move to our new home on March 23rd (yup, yesterday) and now we’re still living at our rented home.

When we first heard the announcement that MCO will be place from March 18th to March 30th, we didn’t think it would affect our moving since it’s not like a huge public gathering. To be on the safe side, we did go to the nearby police station to get the permit. Our heart sank when the police officer told us our reason wasn’t strong enough (I knew I should have turned the drama mode on) and told us not to risk it.

It was disheartening not being able to move to our new home as planned at that point of time. We were worried because that means we have to pay rent to our current home and mortgage for the empty home (you better be grateful, you filthy spiders crawling around rent-free!). Then there’s also maintenance fees and utility bills on both places! It’s a lot of expenses for us because we have taken a break on our business since mid February for personal reasons and business hasn’t been doing well since late 2019.

Then a thought hit me like a big garbage truck! People are sick and dying out there. Doctors, nurses and medical professionals work tirelessly around the clock to save lives. The law enforcement officers are making rounds more often, rain or shine, in order to ensure people stay indoors. There I was, in armageddon mood, over an inconvenience of not being able to move to our new home. Well, in my defense, I’m almost broke but it’s not really life and death matter. We could find ways to solve that! I’m sure I’m not the only one caught in a difficult situation. This thing that happened might be a tiny inconvenience for some people or it could be disastrous for some too. So, instead of staying in that negative mode, I decided to throw out the old plan and come up with a new plan.

Why Bother with Planning if It Changes?

Great question. Let’s imagine I don’t have a plan and I’m just going to go with the government’s plan of 2 weeks of isolation. After that, we can pack up and move. What if MCO is extended for another 2 weeks or a month or 3 months? I assure you that I would go into a full panic mode and most likely end up in hospital. Okay, I’m being dramatic here but it’s possible as I had anxiety attacks before.

To have an effective plan is to be able to stay flexible. Think of planning as more of a process of generating awareness that help you set goals based on the available resources. More importantly, write down some key assumptions, for e.g. in this case the likelihood of MCO being extended and my savings is going to be emptied. When you plan with unexpected scenarios in mind, you’ll be able to come up with solutions to deal with that too.

Some Important Lessons

As I was crafting my new plan, I came to realize a few important points:

1. Planning is better than doing nothing

When our brain is overthinking and overanalyzing the situations, our stress level just go sky high. In order for us to keep calm, we need to shift our thinking and focus on something. By having something to do, it moves our brain from the fear mode of “I’m screwed. What am I going to do?” to “There’s gotta be a better way.

2. Something to look forward to

With a plan in mind, we have something to look forward to everyday and it keeps us productive. It doesn’t even have to be a big plan. You can read a book, write a journal, clean the house, cook a meal, meditate, exercise, etc.

3. Know that plans change

We already know this, don’t we? Life happens and plans change. We need to be volatile and keep the plans flexible.

4. This too shall pass

Bad phases, good phases, they all come and go. Nothing in life is permanent except death. So, keep moving if you’re going through a bad phase. If you’re in a good phase, cherish the moments.

I hope you will continue to make plans and have a direction in life even though you’re going through hard times. Know that even when your plans change, you’re still in control of your destiny, you just need to make a detour. Enjoy the journey!