When Change Comes
When Change Comes You May Have To Make A Choice About The Future
Trouble On The Horizon
Sometimes things in our life change. We don’t choose it or even welcome it, but it happens anyway. Recently I met a group of people who had faced major changes in their working lives and a year later they were still raging against it, still trying to oppose it. So much time had passed that they struggled to articulate what ‘it’ was but they didn’t like it and couldn’t accept it. A year ago their righteous indignation may have been valid but now they looked like people who couldn’t adapt.
But is this better than burying our heads in the sand when the first hazy signs appear on the horizon? After all it is overwhelmingly easy to turn away from the oncoming storm, dismissing it as a mild disturbance and hoping it will pass.
The reality is that any of us could find their lives snatched up and scattered by the winds of change. 'Change is the law of life' JFK said, so what are the definitive guidelines for steering a safe path between denial and despondency? Below is a summary of the best advice.
Heed The Warning Signs
If plans are afoot at work, or your partner is applying for jobs at the other end of the country, think about what it might mean to you; what are the risks, are there any opportunities? Transactional analysis calls this the primary analysis (Lazarus & Folkman). This is the time to be asking yourself some initial questions to evaluate your situation:
- How can I find out more about this?
- Is this something I can change?
- Is it something I should change?
Don’t forget contingency planning:
- What could I do if the worst happens?
- If I can’t do anything about it what can I do to manage my worries?
When You Don't Know What The Future Holds Plan For All Possibilities
Think Yourself Through This
Accepting and acknowledging the situation will enable you to think about the future. A key message for dealing with unexpected situations is that you may not be able to choose what happens to you but you can choose how you respond (Covey).
Coming to terms with if and how you are going to be affected will take you into the response planning stage:
- What do I need to do?
- How can I break it down to make it easier?
- When should I do it?
- Who can help?
- What is my ideal end result?
Thinking through the options like this will help to stop those feelings of powerlessness and keep you moving through the negative cycle of fear, anger and depression and onto the upward slope of experimentation in Kublar Ross’s definitive change model.
The Kublar-Ross Model Of Change
Carry Yourself Gently
Positive thinking doesn’t mean you won’t need time to adjust. Give yourself time to grieve for what has been lost or the chapter that has closed. It’s natural to feel sad but also remember the positives; the happy times and achievements.
You will need space to adjust to new routines and maybe learn new skills. Take the time you need for this, if it’s a work change you may be entitled to time off, and don’t expect too much of yourself during this time:
- Don’t react or lash out without taking time to think it through
- Ring fence your worrying – don’t let it take over your life.
- Don’t confuse coping with escaping behaviours such as self-medicating behaviours such as drugs or alcohol.
- Be aware of the physical effects of stress: headaches, tearfulness, sleeplessness, not eating.
Accept support offered by friends and family graciously, don’t try to be a solitary hero. Remember it’s not all about you - accepting help will mean they will more readily receive support from you when they need it.
Overcoming The Challenges Change Generates
The Future Is Under Construction
You might have to let go and re-frame your life. Be aware that other people may not react how you expect them to. You may find that after a major life event such as divorce, some people drop out of your life but others unexpectedly come through.
Have some trust in yourself that you will be able to make a different future to the one you expected. Don’t undervalue yourself because of what happened or shrink your horizons. Remember learning is a lifetime task so have faith in yourself and try new things.
Look Back And Smile...
Finally there will come a time when, as Sir Walter Scott said, you will ‘look back and smile on perils past’. Picture yourself in the future, you managed to open new doors and you learnt from your experiences. As you’re working your way to making that picture a reality bear in mind a final quote:
‘Success is not final, failure is not final, it’s the courage to continue that counts’ Winston Churchill.