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Issue 54

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In this issue ~~

* Transition and Change

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Transition and Change

Nobody likes change. Most of us are resistant to it. But, for better or for worse, change is here to stay. So, as much as we don't want it, it's in our best interest to understand and develop ways to deal with change and transition.

Change happens again and again throughout our lives. These changes may be self-chosen or imposed upon us. Change can happen quickly, or it can take some time. And with each change comes a period of transition, where you get used to a new way of life, a new way of being, new people and situations.

To add to it, we're in a time of transition on the planet. Change seems to be constant these days. As I walk through my neighborhood, it seems that not a day goes by that something hasn't changed – a shop closed, a different restaurant where an old favorite used to be, an entire block torn down. Last year, even the old family pharmacy across the street, which had been there for 3 generations, was razed to build a high-rise apartment building.

If you're lucky enough to transition over a period of time, you'll go through 3 stages: an ending, an in-between stage and a new beginning. The in-between stage can be uncomfortable; you're neither in the old nor comfortably established in the new.

I recently bought a new computer. There was a period where I was setting up the new computer, getting all my new software working and transferring files from the old one. For a time, it was chaotic, as I moved from one computer to the other to get things done. Eventually, the new computer was completely up and running and I was able to let go of the old. It was nerve-wracking for a couple of weeks, but the new computer is so fabulous, it was worth the trouble!

Change puts us face-to-face with the unknown and uncertain. It shakes us up and threatens our sense of control. When we go through too many changes too fast, it can put us into crisis. The more prepared we are to deal with change, the more elegantly we'll move through it. Here are some suggestions:

~ Stay grounded. Find stability where you can. While I've changed careers several times, I've found my stability by living in the same apartment for over 25 years and the ongoing community with my neighbors. You may find your stability in your relationships, your family, your community, your job, your geographic location, your spirituality, your values.

~ Manage your expectations. If you expect things to be consistent and predictable, the unexpected changes will throw you. Be open to the possibility that you will confront change, perhaps on a daily basis, and make internal and external adjustments to deal with that.

~ Be flexible. There was a time when you could make plans and follow through. With changes often surprising us now, it helps to have contingency plans. Have goals and visions, for sure, but be relaxed and pliable with them. Allow new and different possibilities to come your way. Use your creativity and imagination to brainstorm different ways of getting where you want to go, and don't allow the detours to discourage you or lead you to feel your dreams are impossible. Consider that the change may offer you opportunities that your original plan didn't.

~ Create a safety net, particularly in the areas where you feel most vulnerable. Build your nest egg. Solidify your support system. Have a Plan B, and maybe a Plan C and D. With the inability to take anything for granted these days, it gives us peace of mind to have some options in place.

~ Keep your eye on the horizon and be honest with yourself if change seems inevitable. As scary as that may be, facing it unprepared is even scarier. Exercise control where you can by making active choices. Gather information. Learn new skills. Talk to someone who's been where you're going.

~ Let go of the past. Once the change takes place, there's nothing you can do about it. The wisdom of the Serenity Prayer entreats us to accept what we can't change. Dwelling in what was uses precious energy that you can use to adapt to the new situation. Better to clean out the old to make space for the new, both physically and mentally.

~ Prepare for the future, but live in the present. Constant worrying will drain your energy. Use your plans as a road map, and be willing to try another route. Several years ago, on our way out of Washington, DC, we consulted a map to find a way onto the Beltway. When we got to where the entrance was supposed to be, we encountered a dead end, even though the entrance was clearly marked on the map. We could see the Beltway, but no way to get onto it. We had to try another route that took us farther out of our way, but worked.

~ Be willing to change your mindset. We get used to seeing things a certain way, and change shakes us up. Try looking at things a different way. Be open to new possibilities – in fact, look for them!

~ Own the change. Whether you were victimized or not, ownership and responsibility puts you in a position of power that allows you to do something about it. In the work world, for example, it has become imperative for each of us to chart our own career path and enhance our skills, rather than relying on a company to guide and nurture us.

~ Be creative in dealing with the transition period. The tendency is to try to fit the old structures into the new. Be adventurous and try things in new and different ways. You may continue using the old method as a stopgap (as I did with some of my old computer software before I upgraded it), but look for or create new methods that better suit the new situation. Use it as an opportunity to learn something new and, often, better.

~ Don't panic. Take the time to breathe and think things through. Don't act just to act. Sometimes waiting is more advisable, until you can develop a well-thought-out strategy. Rash action may cause more problems than it solves.

~ This may be a tough one: Trust that the change will take you someplace better that you may not see right now. Change is life's way of making us grow. If we had our way, most of us would keep things the way they are indefinitely. There's a certain comfort in that, but eventually, we would stagnate and become bored.

~ Enjoy the journey. The truth is, things are always changing. Rather than thinking of it as running from one base to the next as fast as you can, take the time to look around and assimilate the new. Use the in-between period as a time of adjustment. Let it be okay to feel uncomfortable for a time.

~ Take care of yourself. You may need to talk through the confusion with someone. You may need extra sleep – change can be energy-draining. Find a safe place you can retreat to, whether it be a physical place or an inner one.

While change is something we have to confront, the good news is, dealing with change is a skill you can learn and master. And the more you do, the easier it gets. We can become what author Marsha Sinetar calls "creative adaptors." We can learn to make the most of change and use it to our advantage. And who knows, you may even begin to embrace it!

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Creative Tip

It's uncomfortable living with uncertainty. Practice staying in the moment. Do what you can to ensure the future, and then let it go. Bring yourself back to the present moment and notice everything that's okay. Do something to take your mind off the problem. Take it a day at a time.

 

Wise Words

"People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value."

~ Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"Life is what happens when you are making other plans."

~ John Lennon

"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."

~ Karen Kaiser Clark

"The outer forms of our lives can change in an instant, but the inner reorientation that brings us back into a vital relation to people and activity takes time."

~ William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes . . . William Bridges

Comfortable with Uncertainty . . . Pema Chodron

Embracing Uncertainty . . . Susan Jeffers

Building Resiliency: How to Thrive in Times of Change . . . Mary Lynn Pulley, Michael Wakefield

Developing a 21st Century Mind . . . Marsha Sinetar

In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life . . . Robert Kegan

We Are All Self-Employed: The New Social Contract for Working in a Changed World . . . Cliff Hakim

 

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© 2003 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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