The Benefit of Having Flexibility when Faced with Change
“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus
We all remember the Sphinx riddle – “What crawls on four legs in the morning, two legs in the daytime and three in the evening?” The answer—people --crawling as a baby, walking as an adult and needing a cane into old age. We’ve all, especially if you’ve ever had children, heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.” These sayings are about the passage of time and how we, and everyone else, change. At home, I see my oldest daughter headed to middle school this coming September. The excitement is there, but a small “fear” of change exists and can be healthy to keep you on your toes! Life is an ever-changing series of sweet and sour moments. In this article we will discuss some healthy ways to approach and think about change; even find the beauty in it.
Transitions can be Difficult
Change, whether good or bad, can be challenging to adapt to. A promotion, a big move, a new baby, a retirement all can be wonderful, but any transition can still be difficult, emotional, or take some time to get used to. Often the best advice is to accept the change with grace. Find thankfulness and gratefulness and try to focus on the positive elements.
Humans are remarkably adaptable, but even so, we may need a little time to reorient ourselves even in the best scenarios.
There are some transitions that can be predicted and planned. If it is possible to improve your health by changing your lifestyle, then that is a proactive change that is improving your life. If you develop a succession plan or an exit plan for when your company closes its doors, then you will have confidence and security in what happens next. Taking control and making decisions can help you cope with a change and the feeling of losing control.
Unfortunately, some change cannot be predicted. The unexpected can happen and leave us reeling, forced to adapt at a moment’s notice to a scenario we couldn’t anticipate. The best path for an unexpected change is to process your feelings, seek outside support and allow yourself some time to cope and heal.[i]
How to Adapt
If you experience a transition that involves a loss (spouse, loss of a job, divorce, even retirement can feel like a loss of oneself), it’s important to take the time to grieve and reflect on what you have lost. Find ways to process emotionally through the transition.
Studies have shown that writing for ten minutes about how your values have positively affected you can strengthen minds and spirits in hard times.[ii]
Talking to those you are close with or seeking counseling are also great ways to help through the change. Another technique is to find humor where you can in your current predicament. It can be hard, especially in painful and tragic situations, but there is truly a place for laughter even in the saddest circumstances. Being able to step back and laugh can release some of the pressure or weight you may be feeling.
When it comes to retirement transitions, changing perspective can be a big help. For some who retire and no longer have the need for a big house in the suburbs, downsizing can offer the opportunity to have a fresh start. Maybe you always wanted to live in the city, or on a beach, or in the woods, and because of your new reality, you can. Leaving a job may open up opportunities to explore other skills you have, or turn a hobby into a business, or go back to school.
Kids off to college may leave you floundering, but it’s also an opportunity to start over with your spouse, relearn each other and revisit the memories you had as a young couple. Balancing the rough with the smooth can actually change how you think.
Practicing gratefulness in your life, celebrating the support you have, and acknowledging your personal strengths can often get you through the rougher patches in life.[iii]
Know Your Resources
You don’t have to experience major life transitions alone. Oftentimes, when facing big challenges, we see who in our life we can count on. Celebrate your friends and family, make sure they know how much you value and appreciate them, and be there for them in times of need. Maintain professional contacts and mentors to help with career challenges. If the change in your life is financial, don’t stress alone, instead seek out financial guidance to help you get back on track or assuage your fears.
The beauty of the harder parts in life is realizing how many people are out there in the world who can help.
Resilient people know to ask for help when something is bigger than them. Humans are social creatures and loneliness is bad for our health.[iv] Strengthening old relationships and nurturing new ones will only further insulate us from the hardest moments in life.
Learn by Looking Back
In times of great change and hardship, a great tool is to look back at your life as a series of chapters. From the moment you were born, you’ve been changing, growing and experiencing life. You’ve weathered hard times and good. You’ve experienced losses and joys. You’ve overcome obstacles and found moments to thrive and shine. Using your life and the experiences you’ve lived through is a nice reminder that you are stronger and more resilient than you may think. Resilient people know to stay positive and that the setbacks and challenges in life are often temporary.[v] Learning from the past, avoiding repeating mistakes and remembering the good along the way can help to keep our eyes on the big picture.
About the Author
I am a life-long MA native and live in Andover with my wife Nadine and 2 daughters Elisia and Calia. When I'm not in the office, I keep busy helping assistant coach Elisia’s basketball team, watching Calia at gymnastics and dance and enjoy a night out on the town with Nadine following some of our favorite DJs and bands who play the soul, disco and R&B that we love cutting a rug to.