Three Ways To Thrive During Change

Thursday, February 21, 2013

This article first appeared in the February edition of The Ripple Effect.

Change is a way of life.  As much as people like “the way things are”, eventually and inevitably life changes – seasons change, we grow, children grow up, and time moves on.   Change often seems disruptive yet we can learn to thrive through change by following a few simple steps.  I’ve been through a lot of changes in my life.  They started when I was growing up and my family would have to frequently relocate to follow my dad’s corporate career.  These changes continued into my own adult life – job assignment changes, career changes, divorces – all these things created radical movement and shift in my life and I discovered a few key things that supported me in staying grounded throughout these seemingly large disruptions to my life.

First, don’t resist the change.   When change is thrust upon us (as when I was a child and would receive the dreaded news from my parents: “We’re moving”), it’s easy to push back and resist the change.  However, if you allow yourself to accept it, turn towards the momentum of the change, you are more able to ride that momentum.  As a kid I knew I had no choice – we were moving.  The more I cried and yelled that I loved where we lived and didn’t want to move, the worse the change appeared.  Once I was able to take a deep breath and accept that there was no way around it, my momentum shifted.  Instead of paddling upstream against the current, my acceptance allowed me to turn downstream and flow with the change.  It made it much easier to deal with.

It was the same when one of my clients received devastating news that she was losing her job.  Initially she resisted that news with her entire being. This created a lot of consternation in her life.  As soon as she accepted the fact that she was losing her job, she was able to ride the wave of the change and discover opportunities that were waiting for her on the other side of the change.

That’s the next way to thrive during change: look for opportunity.  There is always opportunity lurking behind every life change – you just have to seek it out.   (Please see my recent blog post, What Are You Looking For, to learn more about how you get what you’re looking for in your life – whether you want it or not).  It is when we resist change that we are unable to see the opportunity change creates.  This holds true for changes that are unexpectedly forced upon us or those we create on our own.  Several years ago when I began getting internal nudges to leave my corporate to start my own business, I resisted those internal nudges for a while.  Why?  Because I was not ready for the huge change acknowledging the nudges- it felt scary.  Yet, just like when I had to move as a kid, once I accepted that the change was necessary, I saw the huge opportunities behind taking the leap and leaving my corporate job to start my own business.   And, just like with my client who was resisting the fact that she was losing her job – once she accepted it, she began to see the endless opportunities ahead of her – opportunities that would not have otherwise been presented to her if she had not lost her job.

If you’re finding it difficult to see opportunities, try to imagine what the other side of the change will look like for you after you have successfully transitioned through it.  Visualize what your life looks like after the change and how relieved and proud you feel to be through it.  Oftentimes opportunities will present themselves to you as you are focused on your success at the other end of the change.

The third way of thriving during change is to determine what you can control and take action on that.  There will be countless things about a life change that will be out of your realm of control.  My client could not control the decision that she was losing her job.  She wanted to – in fact, she toyed with the idea of making a plea for her company to keep her yet, trying to control things we cannot contributes to our resisting the change and prevents us from moving forward.  Once she realized that the only thing she could control was her reaction and the subsequent steps she took in this situation, she built an action plan to transition through the change – one that was focused on things within her realm of control.

Change can be scary but it does not have to be.  These things may seem simplistic but they truly can change the way you handle change:  Don’t resist. Seek Opportunities.  Take actions on what YOU can control and let the rest go.

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