Five Pivotal Question to Help Navigate Change

We all know change is inevitable and really the only constant in life. We also know that nothing tangible on this planet is permanent. Yet, most of us are challenged when facing change. What we know, and what is familiar, is becoming dismantled. In business, our professional roles at best may be ambiguous, or at its worst – eliminated altogether. It can be scary, frustrating, irritating, disheartening, disillusioning, and even maddening.  Yes…..I get it. We have ALL been there at one time or another in our lives. As we face change, particularly in our professional arenas, what are a few thoughts on how to navigate and make the most of the ‘new world order’?

  1. What can I learn from this experience?

My parents have always taught my sister and me that all things most definitely happen for a reason. Easy to say, yet often it seems impossible to embrace. Let’s face it – it can be HARD!  Yet, I also believe that we are in ‘Earth School’; and from my perspective, thus we are here to learn from one another, teach on another, and to serve each other. So when icky things happen or unforeseen (or unwanted) change hits us square in the face, one way to navigate through this is to ask ourselves – what am I supposed to be learning (or teaching)?  The answer does not always come right away; in some cases it could be months or years before we ‘learn’ what we were supposed to learn.

In the spirit of wanting to share something which may help another, I will be very vulnerable. Years ago, I accepted a high level leadership role with a company (which will go nameless), and I was elated  – as the position offered an incredible ‘package’ – money, title, health insurance, span of control, etc. etc. I thought: ‘This is it!”. I had been very ill, and in particular needed health insurance (this was before the current health insurance environment); so I thought my proverbial ship had come in! Yet, I knew within two weeks…I had made a horrible mistake. The culture did not represent my value system. My boss was not a person I respected. My co-workers were not collaborative and in fact were downright jealous and mean-spirited. To make a long story short, I stuck it out for two LONG years… a single women providing for myself, I felt compelled to ‘give it a go’.  However, the toll of this position and the toxic environment were permeating every corner of my life. I ultimately left this company – and never looked back. This horrific experience was one of the worst decisions (and one of the best decisions) I have ever made. And the big takeaway was this: the VALUES of a COMPANY and its LEADERS are paramount to me. Forget the ‘package’ – (which always feeds our egos!); if an organization or company for whom I work does not emulate my values, what is important to me, how they treat their employees and clients, etc. then I am not a good fit for them AND they are not a good fit for me. This was a HUGE lesson for me; as I had always taken for granted (due to the fabulous companies for whom I had worked prior to this one) that folks had integrity in thought, word, and deed. This, of course, is not always the case…..and this experience forced me to take off the rose-colored glasses and be strong enough to make decisions based on what may appear as INTANGIBLE factors….equally with the TANGIBLE factors.

In addition, I have been told literally hundreds of times since I made that ‘hard call’; that my strength of conviction to leave has helped others make the same courageous decision. People (friends and those who watched from a distance) have shared that my actions TAUGHT them; and that they, too, have the ability to take the reins of their lives. After all, we OWN IT – no one else does.

What can you learn (or teach) from the experience you are facing now?

  1. What new windows have been opened?

When doors close, windows most definitely are being opened. Sometimes we don’t see them….because it can be ‘so dark’. Yet, what I know for sure (to borrow Oprah’s phrase), is that windows are ALWAYS there. ALWAYS. It is our job to open our eyes; and open our minds and hearts to what new chapter may be unfolding. One of my favorite quotes by Leonard Cohen says it perfectly: “There is crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.” So, whether it be our situation, our personal choice, or just the human condition in general…..cracks let the light in; we just need to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to see what we are to see.

  1. How can I ‘change the frame’ on this reality?

We can always change the frame of our reality. Yes….yes, we can. Now, let’s not get confused: the reality is the reality. However, how we make meaning of that reality is our CHOICE. How we look at things makes all the difference.

Again, in the spirit of full transparency and trying to offer my own vulnerable stories to drive this home; I want to share one of the most difficult and life-impacting realities of my life.

Many years ago, I had a large eight pound tumor in my abdomen which threatened my life. As Divine Providence would have it, the tumor turned out to be benign (pre-malignant); so I was given the gift of life. Thank God – literally. However, in exchange for my life, my ability to deliver life (aka: have children) was taken away, due to the invasive surgery. Thus, my life was forever altered. I would never have the ability of carrying a child or bringing a child of my own into the world. As a Southern girl, reared in a traditional home with a very close family, this was a devastating reality. I would never share the experiences of most (if not all) of my friends. I would never be able to give my parents grandchildren. Hard. Hard. Hard. Yet, a nurse in the hospital (whom I wrote about in my first book) helped me change the frame on this reality. (You can read this story, if you want, in the first ‘Is This Seat Taken?” book.) To say it has been easy, would not be truthful. It was difficult to grasp the permanence of the situation. However, my life transformed, and how I contribute today would definitely have been different (and arguably not even possible) had this situation not happened. So yes – ALL things for Divine reason. How can we think about our reality differently?

  1. What are my options?

We always have choice. Always. When trying to figure out where to go from here; again, I am a huge believe in the power of questions. Sit with yourself and evaluate your past year. A few questions to help you focus:

How did I spend my time this past year? Did I enjoy it? What were my greatest accomplishments? What were my greatest disappointments? How did these experiences change me? How am I different now (October, 2016) than in October, 2015? How can I further integrate this awareness as I enter into this new year? What am I tolerating? Why? What steps can I take to make a change? What am I trying to force to happen? What would happen if I ‘let go’?

These questions are questions I ask myself at the end of EVERY calendar year. It keeps me honest with myself. And it helps me optimize my life and my career.

  1. Finally, once we have honestly assessed where we are today – then we put that into action. And again, only YOU can determine your direction, speed, and cadence. Thus, ask yourself:

What do I really want? What is still holding me back? What do I want to contribute to the world? How will I hold myself accountable? What is working for me? How can I have ‘more of that’? What may need to change? What are the first steps to make that change? At the end of this new year (fiscal or calendar) where would I like to find myself? Physically? Spiritually? Professionally? Financially? What is my intention for my life in this new year?

Once you DECLARE this intention to yourself……amazingly, if you REALLY want it – odds are it will become a reality. And yes, change can be scary… can also be VERY liberating.

Which approach will you choose?