“100% scripted, 100% flexible.”

That was one of the mantras we repeated over and over again when I was in Uganda last October, with an emphasis on the “flexible” part.  Our plans and programs were carefully
scheduled and prepared. But unexpected problems and challenges kept popping up, usually with little or no advance warning. We got used to it, and whenever something unforeseen happened – which was most of the time – we made whatever changes were necessary, and carried on with the program.

I’m trying to remember this as I prepare for my next trip to Uganda. There have already been a number of schedule and itinerary changes, and my travel dates have been adjusted several times. Also, some of the places I will be speaking and coaching are still being finalized, and I expect that others will change in between now and when I get there. Because of this, there will be different types and sizes of audience, as well as some that are fluent in English and some that are not, some that will be more church-oriented and some that will be more business-oriented, and some that have heard my message before and some that have not.

Flexible, indeed.

Preparing for this trip has helped me to stretch and grow in a number of ways. It’s also given me the opportunity to examine different areas of my life and work. And looking at them in terms of “scripted” and “flexible” gives me a new and enlightening perspective on them.

If I had to place myself as a whole on a spectrum between “100% scripted” and “100% flexible,” I’d definitely be on the flexible side. Several years ago, when I was accepted into a brand new two-year writing program at the Loft, I was telling a friend about the program. Since it was a new launch, parts of the program were still in development, and a few of the
classes and requirements were not yet finalized. To me, this was an exciting adventure. But my friend said she would be shaking in her boots with that much uncertainty and that many unknowns.

She would definitely be on the “scripted” side of the spectrum. She’s also a rock-solid source of information and support, and she’s one of the first people I go to for business advice.

Obviously, there’s no right or wrong place to be on the line between being scripted and being flexible. Some people lean more heavily or naturally to one side or the other, but the truth is that we all need to be both – at different times and to different degrees. There are pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses on either side of the dividing line, but it’s always more useful and productive to focus on the positives.

So being 100% scripted doesn’t mean people’s lives are rigid and routine, or that they have everything worked out word-for-word. It simply means they have well-organized and well-thought-out plans. They know how long it is going to take to do things, and they have their goals and agendas clearly marked. And being 100% flexible doesn’t mean people have no goals or agendas, or that they flit from one thing to another without any rhyme or reason. It simply means they adapt quickly and easily to whatever changes come along.

My goal for the time I spend in Uganda is to be both scripted and flexible. Well-prepared with my plans and my programs, and as knowledgeable as I can be about the places I’ll be going to and the people I’ll be working and interacting with. Yet ready to shift gears and change plans – at a moment’s notice if need be – whenever any roadblocks or surprises show up.

If I can do that, I should be 100% prepared for everything that’s already planned, yet 100% open to changes and to new experiences and challenges I meet along the way.

And looking forward to it all – 100%.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 30, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

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