I’m not talking about the plan you follow when your house is on fire, although you really should have one of those too. I’m talking about the one you use when your life is on fire. It’s the plan you make for yourself to follow when things go badly and what you want to create is being threatened. Fire marshalls will tell you that the whole point of a fire drill is to have a plan that you can follow under extreme stress and even half asleep. You create it when you are calm and able to think clearly. You figure out how to get out of a dangerous situation and you even identify different options in case one route to safety is blocked. Most importantly, you practice so that you know it will work when things are going down in flames.
The same principle applies with your life, especially when you are trying to make a change in an old pattern. You need to anticipate the things that will endanger your intentions and have a plan for surviving them. Your fire drill. I learned about fire drills when I was being trained as a life coach and they are your best tools for ensuring your success.
Let’s say you have a habit of dating people who are bad for you and you are committed to changing that pattern. Then you need to identify what are the things those people say or do that tempt you. Really analyze what has sucked you in in the past and the warning signs you have tended to ignore. Then design your fire drill for getting out of each of those situations safely. Sure, it would be great to be able to escape at the first puff of smoke (you just met Gary), but we are human so also plan for catching your pattern should you slip. How you will escape should you awake to find the room on fire (you went out with Gary), or even the whole house is engulfed in flames (you slept with Gary)? All that matters is that you get out — and break your old pattern somewhere, anywhere, along its path.
Another fire drill might be for dealing with certain difficult people like your critical aunt or your crazy boss. You should have one for challenging situations like seeing the ex’s new partner when you pick up the kids. You don’t have to do this alone and good fire drills often include others. Calling on support from friends, family, therapists and coaches are all perfectly acceptable. Just make sure they have their script so they know what to do and say in the moment. Practicing is great too.
I have one fire drill to help me with my tendency to overcommit. My need to help others is strong and I’m a sucker for a compelling request, to the point of not taking care of myself. So I now have a strict rule that I do not respond for at least 24 hours. During that time, I journal, look at my calendar, and thoroughly weigh several factors so that I can make a clear and grounded choice. I have another fire drill for travel because I can sometimes feel trapped on planes. I have several steps that I can do, all of which are designed to move me out of fear. Some of them I can do alone, a couple involve others, and the last step is to take medicine.
Once you sketch out your fire drill, write it down and put copies in places that you can access easily like your purse, your car, in your phone, etc. Have fun with it too. Maybe a certain song is the antidote or adding decorations makes it more eye catching. Just think how a big, red glittery stop sign might catch your attention just when you are about to do something that is not good for your health!
I’ve been doing training and coaching a long time and the number one mistake people make when they are trying to make a big change in their life is not having a fire drill. Fire drills have really helped me and my clients in times of need and I know they can help you. Take a few moments to identify the exit nearest you…