Change is a part of life. If we are lucky, change for the most part will be welcome. Other times, change is not desirable. At some point in our lives, each of us has to go through a major life change; be it going off to college, getting married, having children, getting divorced or dealing with the death of a loved one. Many times these events can leave us feeling lost, helpless and paralyzed. Change is difficult and it is easy to become complacent and comfortable with life just the way it is…even if we are less than happy. However, in order to grow and become the people we desire to be and live the best life possible, we must embrace change. Change is part of life and we cannot improve ourselves without it. Many times change is forced upon us. In these instances, the overwhelming feelings of hurt, disappointment and fear make it almost impossible for us to move forward.
• The first step is to acknowledge where you currently are in your life and honestly look at the areas that are not satisfying and fulfilling. Does your life need a shake-up or are you happy with the status quo? What is the price of leaving things the way they are? Is there a payoff for you? Sometimes needed changes can be achieved with a minor tweak here or there. Other times, it will take a major restructuring of our lives to achieve the results we desire and need. If you have just gone through a major life change, you might be feeling a sense of loss, lack of self-esteem, out of control, inadequate, and/or helpless.
• How do you deal with change? Be honest: Is it something you embrace, avoid, or do you run screaming in the other direction when you sense change is headed you way? While we can’t change “change,” the one thing we can change is how we deal with it.
• Be prepared. Since change is inevitable, being prepared for it when it shows up will make transitioning through it much easier. Having money put aside in an emergency fund is a big help. It is not the easiest thing in these tough economic times to save money, but even putting away a small amount each month will add up over time. Having a support network of close and trusted friends is essential in these times of change. Knowing that there are people in your life who are there for you no matter what, brings a sense of security and comfort that will help get you through the rough patches. Enough of the right support can make a seemingly difficult transition, relatively easy.
• Change your mindset. While the situation itself is having a “negative’ impact on your life, how you deal with it makes a world of difference as to how quickly and efficiently you move through the change. Acknowledge that you are in control of your life. Staying in the victim mindset is most assuredly the best way to stay stuck and mired in this major life event. You cannot let go of something that is not yours. Owning the situation will give you a sense of empowerment and the mindset you need to effectively deal with major change. Of course, many things that happen in your life you have no control over. What you always can control is your response to them.
• Change your perspective. When something bad happens, it’s up to you to decide how you will react. Keep in mind that you always have more than one or two choices about what this reaction will be. Come to each situation with a fresh perspective. Look for what is good in the situation. Flip the meaning of the situation. Instead of thinking that your wedding day is ruined because it's snowing, think how blessed you are to have friends and family who loved you enough to be there. A second way is to think about how someone else might react in your situation. Someone who doesn’t have your lifestyle, job or family might happily trade places with you. Lastly, be logical. Emotional and catastrophic thinking make the situation ten times worse. Instead of thinking this is the worst possible situation, dial back the emotion and look at the situation logically. You may admit to yourself that this might not be the best situation, but it is a learning experience which will prepare you for future mishaps. You will get through it and, ultimately, you’ll be in a better place.
• Lower your expectations. This might sound contrary to what we have all been taught since we were young. It has been ingrained in us to aim high and expect the same from others. The trouble with that is, people have a difficult time meeting the high expectations we put on them. In fact, many times they become resentful and purposefully underachieve. When you remove the shoulds, musts and can’ts from what you expect from others, you immediately get rid of disappointments. You no longer define what has to happen, how people have to behave, in order for you to be happy.
• Why me? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are being singled out and that the world is against you. The truth is you are not the first and definitely will not be the last to go through your particular issue. This kind of thinking leaves you feeling isolated and helpless. When you look around you and see that many people are going through the same issues you are, it removes the feelings of victimization and isolation…as they say…misery loves company :) When you see that others have not only experienced the same thing you are experiencing, but have come out the other side and are thriving, it will give you the encouragement you need to get through it.
• Be responsible for your choices. Know that you are in control of the rules you set and the choices you make in your life. You are, in each moment, responsible for what you do, think, and feel. This is a good thing to embrace because it means if you don’t like something in your life, you are the one who has the power to change it. Consider all the options you have available to you. Brainstorm all the possibilities you have to deal with this life change. If you can’t think of more than one or two, do research: go online, read a book, ask a friend for help. Get creative…there are many ways to get out of any problem.
• Avoid self-sabotaging thoughts. It is very easy when in the middle of a major life change to feel there is no escape. You start to think why your situation is different from everyone else’s, why things won’t work out for you. You can find yourself thinking, “Yes, this worked for …, but…”; “Things never work out for me…”; “What if….” You can find a lot of reasons why things will never get better. This kind of thinking keeps you stuck and validates the being a victim mentality.
• Do away with self-judgment and blame. We live in a culture that encourages guilt and blame. We are taught not to put ourselves first and selfishness is frowned upon. Suffering is encouraged by friends, family, society and religion. It has been programmed into us to put our needs last and not go after what we truly want out of life. Deep down you may feel that you are not good enough and don’t deserve the good things that life had to offer. You may feel that the transition you want to make will hurt someone you love. Instead, you suffer in silence. You may feel you’re not smart enough, not resourceful enough, not brave enough, or plain just “not enough” to make a change. Face these negative thoughts you have about yourself and realize that all they do is hold you back from living the life you were meant to live. Most of these thoughts don’t even originate from you, but were programmed into you my others throughout your life. Create a new idea about who you are and hold into it as you build the live you wish to have.
• Stop over-analyzing. Analysis can breed paralysis. When you over-think things, you will find a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t make a change. Take a leap of faith, trust your gut and know that you will be caught when you jump off that cliff.
• Risk failure. All great inventions came about after many failed attempts. Failure is the road to success. Embrace it because each failure gets you closer to the desired result.
• Create a vision of your future. Now knowing what might happen if we make a career change or leave a long-lasting relationship can be very scary. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. It can keep you from seeing all the options and solutions that are right in front of you. Think about what you desire to happen in your life. Where do you see yourself? What do you wish to accomplish? What are you passionate about? This vision will form the foundation of your new life and give you the inspiration and courage you need to move on.
• Set goals for yourself. Start focusing on what you do want and notice when it shows up in your life. Make a list. Be specific and clear on the details. Set a deadline and measurable goals to track your progress. Make sure your goals are achievable in the time frame you set. Otherwise, you can be easily discouraged. One of the most important factors is to make this a relevant goal to your life. If it doesn’t matter to you and motivate you, why do it? Keep it positive and use positive language. Describe things in the terms of what you do want rather than what you don’t want.
• Be proactive. Consistent action that moves you forward is necessary to make lasting change. Do one thing each day, no matter how small, will keep you focused and in control. It will also help to offset the days when negativity comes your way. Knowing you have a specific goal and that you are moving closer to it, will take the power out of your not-so-good days.
• Trust your inner guide. This part of you is instinctual. It’s that quiet voice that is always guiding you, looking out for your best interest. When you are going through a difficult transition, give yourself the time, space and quiet to listen to that inner guide. The truth is we all know what we need to do in each and every situation. The key is to be open to that knowledge.