As a career counselor I work with people in transition all the time. Some enter the change voluntarily by deciding they want to find a job in line with their values or calling and others are thrust into it; the employer lets them go or their marriage dissolves, they graduate from college, and they suddenly find themselves without financial support. Just because change is a natural part of life, does not mean that it is always a welcomed part and even when the change is our choice, there are always unexpected situations that surface. Here are some strategies I’ve observed the people who weather change the best use to get through the rough patches:
1. They choose to believe everything happens for a reason. These people believe whatever is happening is a small piece of a bigger picture. They also tend to believe that the bigger picture is being created by a power beyond them and therefore believe there is a deeper meaning behind it. When someone holds this belief they tend to look at change and even setbacks as being part of a bigger picture. They do not give up but to them change can represent a life lesson they needed to learn, and setbacks can represent a greater power protecting them from some unseen hazard. Either way, they have faith that things are all going to work out for the best in the end. For example, when people who have beliefs like this have an unexpected flat tire and then see there was an accident on the road they are traveling on, they think “good thing I had the flat tire or I could have been in that accident.” It doesn’t matter if they would have been in danger or not, what matters is that they believe a higher power is looking out for them and this mentally provides comfort on many levels.
2. They scale their problems. A mental scale is a useful mechanism for determining how much our effort to put forth on a particular matter. For example, if #1 means –“ no big deal” and #10 means – “drop everything this is life threatening” deciding how “down and out” or “in a panic” to be when something does not work out as anticipated becomes a little bit easier. As a personal example, I did not have an easy pregnancy with my first child and subsequently was pulled from work and put in the hospital for nearly a month. I am not a fan of hospitals in spite of the fact that many nice people work there. Laying in a hospital bed for a month provides a great opportunity to fortify your personal mettle or collapse like a cheap lawn chair. Every day I had to scaled my day to keep from that latter – for me 10 was being abused in the worst possible way with no hope for it every ending. When I compared my situation of being in one of the best nation’s best hospitals receiving exceptional care, I could not rationalize feeling sorry for myself even though I wanted desperately to go there.
3. They chose to find reasons to be grateful. You may notice both of the strategies above end with the same outcome: finding something to be grateful for in your life right now. The power of this strategy was profoundly demonstrated to me in an interview I saw with a couple who lost their only young daughter in an accident. A year after the event the father was struggling and the mother was calm. When asked about her serenity she simply said, “every day was a gift with her. I am just so grateful to God that I had the opportunity to share a life with her as long as I did.” And she meant it. Of all the things that can create change and chaos in our lives, losing a loved one usually tops most people’s list! I’m not sure I could be as calm as this mother and all I can say is that I hope I never have to find out.
Those of us who manage change the best find some way to mentally put ourselves in control of the only things we have power over …. ourselves. Our own behavior is driven by our attitude and our attitude falls fully under our personal responsibility. If we assume that we all have free will and thus the ability to make choices, than we are in a position to call upon our inner adult to override our childish desire to whine, lash out, engage in self-pity, blame, rebel, fear, judge, resist, condemn, envy, over eat and drink, and all those other things we want to do so badly because we are entitled to!
We must step up to be the main playmaker in life’s changes and take the firm stand that self-control, poise, and gratitude are going to be the only approaches allowed to have a voice during this time. Be prepared when you do this because changing the mind’s pattern is like trying to break a bad habit in my experience. It takes a lot of tries and there are daily moments of taking one-step forward and two-steps back. However, it is my belief that our best selves are infinitely determined, wise, powerful, and beautiful which means victory is 100% guaranteed.