Tony Robbins on What to Do When Life Doesn’t Work Out Like You Planned



“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expected.

Growing up, I thought I was going to be a chiropractor and a kick-boxer.  My guidance counselor said, “Great, so you’re going to break people, and then put them back together.”   I never pursued that path, beyond taking kickboxing in college.

Life changes, people, change, and that’s the point.  Here’s the thing–we are capable of making the most of whatever comes our way.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

I was watching a Tony Robbins video on Create a New Story.   Our story is our blueprint.

It’s what we wanted our life to be like.

When your life doesn’t match your blueprint, you can succeed at what you do, but feel unfulfilled.   Worse, when your life doesn’t match your blueprint and you don’t feel like you can change it, you can feel stuck or depressed.

You need to match your blueprint to feel full and alive.

Life doesn’t always go our way, and things change along the way, including major events in our life.   This means changing your life or changing your story.

And, the irony is, sometimes failing to get your goal helps you fulfill your destiny.

The Formula for Happiness

Tony has a very simple formula for happiness.  The formula for happiness is:

Happiness = Progress

He says we we have to feel like we’re growing.  You have to feel like you are on the road to somewhere, and making improvement.  If you stop growing, you start dying.

Life is a series of growth-spurts.

Two Things that Make You Feel Alive

According to Tony, there are two things that make us come fully alive:

  1. Growing
  2. Giving

It’s not about “me”, it’s about “we.”  We need to feel like we’re growing, and, giving back is what takes us beyond ourselves.

Our Blueprint is the Story We Have in Our Head

Tony says that we all have a story in our head.  It’s the one we grew up with.  It might be something along the lines of … work hard in school, be a nice person, find the ideal mate, get a house with a white picket fence, start a family, and live happily ever after.

It might include that you have to achieve an enormous amount, such as build a company, or a new technology, or be a special doctor, or it’s not enough, and you won’t be happy.

This blueprint is our model of how life should be.  It’s often wrong for us, or our situation, or it’s somebody else’s blueprint for us.

When Life Doesn’t Match Our Blueprint

The problem is, even if we succeed at what we do, but it doesn’t match our blueprint, we don’t feel fulfilled.  When life doesn’t go as planned, Tony says we have three choices:

  1. Blame something
  2. Change your life
  3. Change your blueprint

Blame is not the path.  The blame game goes nowhere fast.  You can blame an event, someone else, or yourself, but that doesn’t help.  Tony shares powerful words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela that go like this:  “Having resentment in your soul is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die.”

The empowering path is to change your life or change your blueprint.

Change Your Life or Change Your Blueprint

The key to finding fulfillment, getting unstuck, and finding your breakthrough is to match your blueprint.   If you can change your life, and get on path, great.  Remember that as long as you are on path and making progress, you can enjoy the journey and experience fulfillment along the way.    But, if you can’t change your life, or the circumstances you find yourself in, then you need to change your blueprint.

When you change your blueprint, your picture needs to match your deepest needs.  Tony shared a story of how a lady who was deeply depressed wasn’t achieving her dreams.   She wanted a husband, but she was divorced twice.  She always thought she would have kids, but now it was too late.

When Tony probed deeper, beyond the surface, it turned out that she didn’t really want a husband, but she did want the kids, but she didn’t want to adopt.  Tony probed deeper, and she said she didn’t want to adopt because she wanted her kids to be her own flesh and blood.  After probing even deeper, it turned out that the reason she wanted her kids to be her own flesh and blood, it’s because she wanted unconditional love.  She thought that if her kids were her own flesh and blood, they would unconditionally love her.

Once Tony got her blueprint on the table, he could easily show her how there were multiple ways to address her deepest needs.  In fact, it was actually her strategy that had been holding her back, keeping her stuck, and making her feel depressed.   Now she can change her story, change her life, and follow her fulfillment.

Tony pointed out that usually in life it requires a little bit of both.  We need to change our story and change our life to transform our life and transcend any situation.

This is the stuff that breakthroughs are made of.

3 Things Happen When You Change Your Blueprint

When you have these breakthroughs, three things happen:

  1. People realize who they are.  This helps them be authentic and be congruent, which helps create a sense of certainty and a peace of mind.
  2. People deepen all their relationships.   For example, Tony says jokingly that when people go through some hard times, their Facebook friends go away, and they find out who their real friends are.
  3. People build psychological immunity.   This is the the strength of the human spirit.  They can handle whatever life throws their way.

After you’ve been through tough times, and you push through your breakthrough, you are stronger inside.   You know you can handle whatever life throws your way.  In fact, you might even challenge life to go ahead and give you it’s best shot  creates freedom and joy.   You’re no longer stuck.  You’re in control – you can change your life or change your blueprint.   The human spirit needs to grow, come up with a new blueprint.

This is our ability to transcend whatever happens to us.  This includes when you feel something has been taken from you – whether it’s a limb or a love one — total trauma.    Tony says that you have to trust that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you, and to change any limiting beliefs that stop you from achieving what you’re capable of.

Sometimes Failing to Get Your Goal, Helps You Fulfill Your Destiny

Your blueprint is your projection of what you think you need to make you happy.  The problem is, we are notoriously wrong.  We’re not good at projecting these things.

We’re not good at projecting what would make us happy, just as much as we aren’t good at projecting what will make us unhappy.

Tony shared a story of Garth Brooks.  Garth thought he wanted to spend his life with a girl he liked in high-school.  It was his one wish.  Unfortunately, things didn’t happen that way.  Years, later, now that he’s rich and famous, he saw her again at a high-school reunion.   Fortunately, he was glad, after all, that it hadn’t worked out between them, and he was glad, after all, how his life panned out.

In fact, so glad, that he wrote a song about it, called, “Unanswered Prayers,” where he sings, “I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all.”

Key Takeaways

  • Our blueprint is the story we tell ourselves about how life should be.
  • Life is a series of growth spurts.
  • Two things make you feel alive: growing and giving.
  • Match your blueprint to feel full and alive.
  • Ask, “What did you want your life to be like?”, and change your story, or change your life.
  • Breakthroughs happen when you change your story or change your life (or both.)
  • Match your blueprint to feel full and alive.
  • Sometimes failing to get your goal helps you fulfill your destiny.

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  1. Wonderfully inspiring, JD. I identify with this as I went through a phase when I was upset that what I had planned for myself did not quite pan out that way. Life intervened. But I had a powerful mentor who steered me away from that mentality and taught me to be flexible and recognize all that I was capable of, and leverage those talents.

    🙂 Thank you for a very encouraging read. Ah, that mentor was my Mother.

  2. @ Vidya — Moms always know just what to say, don’t they.

    Sometimes I forget just how powerful Tony is, and the way he operates at a higher level, and then I see him in action again. He always knows how to break a topic down and really nail it with actionable insight.

  3. Like the saying about releasing the life we’ve planned so that we can have the life that is waiting for us. I haven’t quoted it exactly (do you know this quote?), but that’s the gist of it. It’s good to have a blueprint, but maybe use a pencil with an eraser!

  4. Hi JD,

    How could I resist this headline? Because life never works out as planned in my experience. Sometimes that’s fine, sometimes it works out better but sometimes we get disappointed.

    And of course I’m one of those that sets high goals some of which I don’t know if I’ll achieve. I’d been thinking of giving up on them but I don’t like to quit so now I can just refine them by changing my blueprint – I like that idea much more 🙂

  5. Hi J. D.

    The story of the depressed lady is an interesting one. It shows that our true wishes are often covered over by layer and layer of confusion. Sometimes we need help to peel back all those layers. Or, at least, a series sense of determination and commitment to ourselves. I like the ideas here and the sense of confidence that can come from have a structure like this.

  6. @ Galen — I think I know the you mean:

    “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
    ? Joseph Campbell

    Great metaphor to put your blueprint down in pencil.

    @ Annabel — You reminded me of the quote from Peaceful Warrior:

    “A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” — Socrates

    Refinement sounds like a perfect strategy. And, sometimes, the goal is great, but the timing is off, so it’s a “Yes, but not now.” It’s less about putting dreams on hold, and more about timing them better, and enjoying the journey.

    @ Sandra — I remember when my Dad asked my brother why he wanted to make a lot of money. He said he wanted to drive a Ferrari. My Dad said, you could be a parking attendant and do that.

    One of the things Tony Robbins impressed upon me early on is to stay committed to your goal, but be flexible in your approach. And, many times, that means chunking your goals down to something you can achieve in the near term, and building momentum.

    Of course, the most powerful way to achieve our goals is to start with a compelling “Why.” And, as you say, that can often lurk below the layers.

  7. Came back to read this a second time – thanks for the reply JD – you’re a star, I love your quotes and smart advice. I’m particularly interested because it’s a concept I’m trying to base my memoir around – I called it the gap between our childhood dreams and reality so very interested to see it’s already being spoken about and what to do about it 🙂

  8. Love your posts! Especially on Tony Robbins, I am a big follower of him and his teachings. JD, also love your site here. I am finding some good info on your pages. Are you a coach too?

  9. @ Donna — Thank you. I’m not a coach by profession, but I coach and mentor individuals, teams, and leaders on a regular basis.

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