We often hear that “change is inevitable,” but our ability to deal with change can make the difference between joy and despair, fulfillment and disappointment. This quote from American author William Arthur Ward describes it well:
Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.
The changes that can create the most havoc are those things that happen TO us, often unexpected and seemingly out of our control—the end to a relationship or job, the health challenges we face, the illness and/or loss of a loved one or pet. These might be called life-imposed changes, and can be devastating.
Then there are the changes that happen BY us, that we initiate ourselves—choosing to end a relationship, a job, a career, choosing to live a healthier lifestyle, choosing to move, choosing to do some personal work that helps us deal with life and all its challenges and opportunities in a better and healthier way.
When dealing with change, whether life-imposed or self-initiated, life can be very stressful.
What are the best ways to deal with the changes that occur in our life?
- Be willing to feel all the feelings and think all the thoughts related to any particular change. We are human, and we are more likely to move through something if we honor each part of the experience.
- Make a distinction between life-imposed changes and those that are self-initiated. This can give us the freedom to move through each event or change more easily, in part by recognizing what we can change and what we can’t.
- From Angelyn Miller in The Enabler. When Helping Harms the Ones You Love, “Knowing and believing that there are things we can do to create change brings hope of new possibilities. And accepting that there are specific things about ourselves and our life circumstances that can’t be changed gives us permission to quite struggling against them. The prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr and used by Alcoholics Anonymous, says it best: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.“
- If something is life-imposed, there isn’t usually much you can do to change anything but your attitude about it. You cannot change what happened, and you can’t necessarily change any person involved or their behavior. That means you get to choose your response to whatever has happened. You can choose to be angry, frustrated, sad, devastated, even terrified. In the beginning, it is important to acknowledge these, as mentioned above. At some point, however, it’s important to look at these changes from a different perspective. There is a quote my daughter shared with me a few weeks ago: There is nothing that is happening that is not for my benefit. Wow! Really? Yes. I invite you to be open to this possibility. In other words, there are “gifts” and opportunities in anything that happens to us, no matter how unexpected, traumatic or tragic. Changes can make us stronger and more resilient, and wake us up to a greater understanding of how the Universe works, and how we evolve and grow through change.
- If a change is self-initiated, it can be a combination of exciting and scary, and feel like an emotional roller coaster. If the change is a major one, pay attention to what is going on in your mind and heart, and allow the thoughts and feelings to emerge. Address your fears, enjoy your excitement, and map out a plan, step by step, to make the changes you desire, knowing you are going through an important transition.
- Whatever changes might have occurred in your life, or whatever changes you are going through now, or are anticipating in the future, one of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve been given many time is: this. Do your best to stay in the present moment, take one day at a time (or, if necessary, one hour, or one minute, or even one breath at a time). Focus on what needs to be done “now,” and stay open to all the possibilities.
- Believing in a “higher power,” whatever you choose to call It, can be very helpful as changes occur. Within me, for example, I know there is an inner guidance, an inner peace, that allows me to have faith in and trust the Divine, knowing everything is unfolding “in Perfect Divine Right Order” (which I affectionately shorten to PDRO). This has pulled me through a lot!
- With practice we learn to welcome change rather than shun or resist it. If we look around us, we see that the nature of the Universe is to be in a continual state of change—in the stars, in the world, in nature and the weather, in our daily lives.
- In every moment, we are at choice. We get to choose how to respond—what to think, what to feel, and how to deal with the changes that occur in our lives. In any moment, we can change a thought, which can in turn change the feeling. Some people believe it’s the other way around. But what I do know is that choosing to change our attitude can make a huge difference in the way we deal with change. I like what Wayne Dyer (self-help author and speaker) says…If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
And so it is!