I don’t think many of us will quickly forget the week of November 8. For me, this week didn’t just bring the shock of the election results, but an unexpected change in my financial situation along with the discovery of a medical condition requiring follow up testing.
I’m no stranger to change. I’ve reinvented myself professionally several times, have relocated around the country, started two businesses and have handled various health and financial challenges. However, when faced with a cascade of unexpected changes in less than a week, I felt that my world had been rocked!
Have you been there? Perhaps a company re-structuring or buyout has re-defined or eliminated your job. You might be dealing with a financial loss or a bitter personal disappointment. It may be that you’re struggling to adapt to an alteration in your relationships, a change in your health or the changed political landscape.
Change can be scary. It can feel like you’re trying to find your way along a rocky path in the fog. People, organizations and institutions that you had counted on seem to have disappeared. You may feel angry, powerless or depressed.
It’s perfectly natural for us to find change unsettling and to crave stability, certainty and comfort. Yet denying or fighting change often leads to a downward spiral of resentment, self-pity and stagnation.
When dealing with my own transitions, I’ve been inspired by organizational expert, Margaret Wheatley, who asserted in her book, Leadership and The New Science, that the optimal state for living systems to thrive is not equilibrium or stability, but a state of openness to new information that might threaten their stability. This openness keeps organisms adapting to new circumstances in their environment so they can continue to thrive.
In other words, the key to thriving in our world of rapid economic, political and cultural change is an openness to learn and willingness to adapt to changed circumstances. This can put us on a path to designing innovative ways of living, working and contributing that we might never have otherwise considered.
Here are three key steps for adapting to change.
CHOOSE VICTORY OVER VICTIM-HOOD
Although we may not have chosen this disruption, we can choose our response to it. We can elect to be either a powerless victim or a victor who confronts change with optimism and looks for the hidden opportunities.
As a recovering victim, I know how tempting it is, when faced with a devastating disappointment or loss, to lash out in anger and/or hide from the world and stew in self-pity. While taking an appropriate time to grieve is important, experience has taught me that staying in victim mode closes our minds to new possibilities, keeps us feeling powerless and stifles our creativity.
One of the best ways to move out of victim mode is to shift our thinking about change.
POWER TOOL – Shift Your Mindset about Change
- Make two columns on a sheet of paper
- In the first column, list all the negative aspects of the change.
- Now review each negative item and find a positive aspect to it. You could ask:
(a) What new possibilities does this change open up for me?
(b) How can I use this situation to grow personally or professionally?
(c) What lesson can I learn from this?
For example, a financial loss might be just the nudge needed to start that business you’ve been talking about. A change in the political climate could prompt you to more actively support a cause you feel passionately about. That career setback might jolt you out of your unfulfilling rut to start exploring opportunities for more meaningful roles or careers.
Once you move out of the victim mindset, you’ve positioned yourself to move forward in your life by taking action.
GET IN ACTION
Your next step is to empower yourself by taking action. Review the positive aspects of the transition. What new possibilities can be explored? Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn or try? What opportunities exist to enhance your relationships, improve your health or pursue a passion?
When you get in action, you accelerate your shift from helpless victim to entrepreneur of your life! Taking action will boost your self-confidence and create a momentum that will attract opportunities that you might never have otherwise explored.
POWER TOOL- How to Get in Action
(a) Identify something that you’ve always wanted to do or learn but have been procrastinating, analyzing or overthinking.
(b) Break it down into baby steps. The idea is to start small so that you’re not overwhelmed.
(c) Take the first step. Congratulate yourself for moving forward.
(d) Even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you hoped, celebrate your choice to be proactive. View it as learning opportunity, evaluate what didn’t work and adapt your strategy.
As you continue to take action, each little win fuels you to keep going. You’ll discover that as your comfort zone expands, you’ll begin to trust yourself more, which will encourage you to take more risks and let go of fear.
LEARN TO TRUST
One of the hardest things about change is the fog of uncertainty that surrounds us. This is what often keeps us awake at night spinning all sorts of unpleasant scenarios about our future. We become fearful, stressed and paralyzed from taking action.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
According to Dr. Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear & Do it anyway, the root of our fear is that we don’t trust ourselves to handle whatever life throws at us. It follows that if we trusted that we’ve got the inner strength to handle this disruption, we wouldn’t be as fearful. One powerful way to build that self-trust is by slowly expanding our comfort zones, which is why taking action is so important.
Even if you haven’t yet taken action, you can start building your self-trust through two valuable practices:
POWER TOOLS- Build Self-Trust Through Meditation and Affirmations
(a) Meditation – Start a meditation practice to allow your busy mind to get calm, quiet and open to that still small voice within.
(b) Trust Affirmation – Develop the habit of reciting a positive self-trust affirmation to you when you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or fearful. You can use a quote from the Bible or other spiritual source or from a wisdom teacher such as Dalai Lama, Eckert Tolle or Louise Hay. Two of my favorites are “I trust the process of life to bring me my highest good” and “Everything is working out perfectly.”
Finally, it’s helpful to trust that there’s a benevolent force at work – whether you call it God or the universe -that has a bigger plan for your life, which will gradually emerge from the chaos of transition. When we learn to trust this benevolent force, we begin to see a path through the fog that will allow us to emerge from any transition stronger and wiser.
Anne Martin, J.D. is a Certified Professional Performance Coach, Reinvention Strategist and Speaker who guides professionals in creating and enjoying meaningful success. Her most popular presentations and classes include Breaking the Confidence Barrier, Reinvent & Thrive Through Transition and Reinvent Your Work-Life. To receive her free report, Seven Secrets for Thriving Through Transition, visit www.daretoreinvent.com