Nothing is constant but change.
We prepare for change, we manage for it, we even craft long and short-term strategies for change in business. However, it is rare that I talk with people who apply those very same principles to their personal lives. Instead, we roll along, oblivious most of the time until change hits us right where it can hurt a great deal. So, what can we do to soften those blows that seem inevitable?
Changes can be as small as a new friend, a minimal promotion at work, a cost of living raise or changing your furniture around. Changes can also be so large that you think at the time that you will never handle them and that you will never be the same.
You are right about the latter perhaps, but with a bit of forethought and flexibility, the former doesn’t have to be the case. If you accept that the human mind is a powerful thing and that your thoughts and decisions have a great deal to do with how everything affects you, (science will back you up on this) then you must accept that you have the power to think about things differently and change their effect on you and your life. It is logical.
Visualization and contingency planning are the key to having some action plans in place for things you can imagine happening. Big things like loss of a job, a relationship, a family member; a big move, additional children, aging parents and their needs, children growing up and moving out…you know, the stuff that happens inevitably with varying degrees of chaos.
Many of the things I just listed just happened to us in the last year. Not the loss of a job or relationship or an additional child, but everything else. Some of it we expected when it happened and we had planned for it, but others we had just categorized as “things that will happen, but hopefully not soon.” That just wasn’t the case. Dad passed away and no one expected that at this point. It was just much sooner than we had mentally prepared for, but we had each other, the family and most importantly, our faith and the belief that this is not the end of life, but instead the beginning of another more perfect existence.
It did, however, get my husband thinking seriously about life’s brevity and that he really wanted to follow his Dad’s example of going for every bit of joy, adventure and experiences that life has to offer. He moved up the timeline on our planned eventual downsizing after Daughter Two graduated, since Daughter One was scheduled to get her own apartment and then go to law school. In short order we had bought a garden home about half the size of our present home and were scheduled to move in a month or so.
I, as is usual in our relationship, was a little behind him in jumping on this train. For a time all I could see was the negatives; change of routine, the work involved, leaving a neighborhood I had loved since 1994, the work involved….you get the drift. Then I realigned, got my mind in a more flexible place and with his help, fell in love with our new little home. It really is lovely now that it is just the two of us, with an occasional summer or visit with the girls as they pursue their busy lives.
You see, my husband’s thinking was that with less overhead and responsibility of a large home, we would have more freedom. Lock the door and take off for a month somewhere cooler in the summer; or take a cruise; or I could just travel with him when he goes for business for any length of time.
The change I feared became the freedom I look forward to enjoying, and we owe this to a number of changes that happened within months of each other.
Could I still look at this change negatively? Sure.
I loved my beautiful, big home and will miss certain things about it for a while. But…you always have the choice to be as happy as you decide to be. Sounds trite, but it is true. Even when the saddest things happen, you have the choice to allow yourself to grieve but then to decide to find the positive things in your life and move forward. If it takes counseling or talking to friends or praying or even a visit to a doctor if you are having persistent depression, do it. Don’t choose to be unhappy. It is painful and unnecessary after you have processed your anger, grief, or discomfort in a healthy way.
As Dr. Stephen Covey says in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and we have always reminded our girls, “You cannot control what other people or the world do and how it impacts you. You can, however, control the way you react to it.“
Wishing you happiness through all of the changes!