Recently I've faced a few major changes in my professional and personal life, some of them willingly and others unwillingly. A significant few have already proven to be focal and I expect many more ahead. Although I am not thrilled about the way I coped with each and every one of them and don't take myself for an expert, I still take pride in my resilience in attempting to improve and outgrow myself through challenges life throws at me. It is an ongoing process, as changes are an inevitable part of life, but I find them essential for our personal growth and substantial to living a rich and colorful life.
Simply put, there are two types of changes in life: those you want and those you don't. Both types are challenging by their own merit, but the latter is the really difficult one (the changes we want and willingly invite into our lives are the topic of my next blog post).
The Unwelcome Kind
The changes we did not get to chose on our own and willingly invite into our reality are those that make us feel impotent and out of control over our own lives, sometimes even infected with fear and doubt in ourselves and the cosmic balance. They also leave a thick stink of anger and frustration or discontent and discomfort at the very least. You know the feeling like someone just pushed out the air out of your lungs or kicked you out of a sweet dream? Pulled out the carpet underneath your feet? Well, sometimes they can hit you pretty hard.
Even the first change in our lives was against our will and well before we even know we had one - we were ferociously pushed out of the safe and warm comfort of our mothers' wombs and the first sound we heard was our own excruciating cry as the air pierced through our tiny, fragile lungs. What a welcome to the World! You would expect things to go down south from there, right? I guess that is why we have no recollection whatsoever of that particular arrival moment.
Yes, this type of change is inevitable as they are unwanted. They are a product of circumstances, coincidence, actions of someone who has overpowered us, a collateral or if you prefer the fatalistic point of view, of some forces beyond our scope and reach. So all of the negative feelings they provoke are a purely natural reaction of our being -no different than the cry of a newborn.
The Mastery (When Life Gives You Lemons)
However, although we cannot control things that happen to us nor the emotional storms they induce, we can definitely decide and choose by ourselves how to cope with them and how to act in a changed or distorted reality. The thing is that if you don't learn to master the change that hits you, you will get crushed by it.
The important thing to remember for all times is that bottom line, ALL IS GOOD - the world did not end, you are still here and your skin is quite elastic - you can outgrow it. And you owe it to yourself! Do it at least to spite the bastard who used you as collateral or to rebelliously contradict the odds (that can be a powerful source of motivation and render positive outcomes, believe me!).
While you're mastering the unwanted change in your life, care to remind yourself of a few things:
1. Accept what you cannot change
After the initial reaction you are allowed to have as natural as it comes to you (we are only human after all), which can be everything from shock to rage (tantrums and profanity included), pull yourself together and take a deep breath. Now another one. And another one. Are you good? Now clear your head and call for Reason and Sanity (they will be your best buddies in the process). You know that the first rule in facing an attack is to not resist the force, as a tactic to delude the attacker and regain control? With that in mind, accept the cards you were dealt with and "make peace“ with the new situation (clearly you are preparing for a fight, so this is just a make-believe). Differentiate between what you can and what you cannot change. Leave the latter and focus on that where your energy can be kinetic.
2. Find your motivation and regain strength
Motivation is a key for any successful endeavor. Make sure to reach deep into your core to find the inner source of your strength. You could turn to pride, the sense of dignity or justice, your personal and professional integrity or a long-term goal of yours. If you are an individualist who has often been misunderstood and (deliberately) misinterpreted just because people are not able to put you in a labeled box and cannot or care not to challenge their brain cells, then the instinct to self-protect and survive can be an incredible source of strength. You are born with no more than you can take. Admit it - you always knew you're special. Now prove it (and I salute your individuality)!
3. Lean on those who love you back
When going through any type of change, especially the unwanted one, love, and support will recover and fortify you. Allow it.
4. Strategize - plan your stay or your getaway
After you've accepted the facts you cannot change, be wise and strategic in your actions. Examine the new situation for a while, gather the intel. If you feel you can accommodate to the change in your life, then work on that. If it's truly unbearable and not something you can live with, focus on finding your getaway door and take it no matter what. You will be facing a few more changes after that, but at least this time it will be by your own choosing. Sometimes you win just by leaving the room or the conversation.
Let me give you a personal example. I was once completely unwillingly (not to mention against the laws of morality and the state) transferred to another position within the company without any offer of an alternative and with no apparent reason other than the fact that the person who did the job in question found her own getaway door and took it and I was left as "the only one qualified to take over the job effortlessly" (they tried to appeal to my vanity with this pitch). This new position, for which I got so malevolently screwed over, was so far from what I wanted and planned for my career that before the very incident I used to joke around that I wouldn't be caught dead doing the job in question. Well, be careful what you say - fate has a rather dark sense of humor.
I did the job for a couple of months with zero effort, my head high and a big smile, as I planned my getaway. I will never forget the look on my ex-boss's face when I shoved the "opportunity" down his throat (this is a metaphor, of course) and left the premises with my conscious clean, my integrity untouched and better things ahead of me. I didn't even quarrel over the money they were left owing me - I left them to their own disgrace. Everybody who worked there envied me for the audacity, although I wouldn't call it that, to get out of a rotten (un)professional relationship. Many of them admitted it to me in person as they poured despair into their black, bitter coffees. That brought me no joy - I am not malignant, but I could only advise them to plan their own getaway. And be careful with the sugar.
I find that there is some great dignity in knowing when to leave the conversation/relationship/job. Pick the moment that suits you. Or stay, but don't complain to me then.
5. Add some color to your changed reality
If you are already drawn into an unwanted change in life and have to cope with the new reality every day, then add some color to it. Make a new dream, set up a new goal, start a new project, no matter how little it may seem at first (no goal is small!). Turn the negative energy into positive action - do something new that makes you feel good about yourself, something that makes you grow.
For me, picking up writing proved to be a remedy. It helps me express my feelings and dwellings and lose the negativity. So, when I start getting the bitter feeling of angst over the past injustices, I do something productive. Lately, it's been doing research and writing. This is, of course, after I sweat it all out in the gym and fight the urge of stress eating. (I say you burn that chocolate bar before you eat it and if you still want it after, eat it guilt-free. It's the best taste ever!)
So, let's get those creative juices flowing!
6. Don't be too hard on yourself
Humans are slaves of habit, creatures of routine. Changes are hard in any given scenario and context. Keep that in mind and don't be too hard on yourself - you are your biggest rock. Attempt and fail, succeed a few times, keep up despite the odds. Believe in your abilities and your good fortune, name your blessings, surround yourself with those you love and who love you back.
Every day brings a new opportunity to be better than you were yesterday.
So, the next time life gives you lemons, you can either make lemonade or:
or, as my personal preference: