How are you doing with all the changes happening right now due to the Coronavirus sweeping the planet?  Are the challenges you’re facing just too much or are you accepting them, riding the waves and even wanting to make some changes in your life? 

I don’t know one person who isn’t being affected in some way or another by the current social and economic challenges we are facing.  As the saying goes, the one constant in our lives is change, and it seems like we have all been thrust into a giant wave of change lately.

On the one hand, I don’t think any of us were truly prepared for such immediate, drastic and unwanted changes.  On the other hand, I also think that change can be a good thing when you understand how to manage it.

As working moms, we are all facing a lot of challenges that are being forced upon us, adding to our overwhelm and constant struggle with balance.  Just when you think you’ve got a good handle on having a career and being a mom, a massive wave of change comes crashing into your life like a tsunami.

While you may not be thrilled as a working mom with many of the unwanted changes happening in your life right now,, you can also look at the changes you want to make, that this current situation is offering.  Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting against unwanted change that we forget we also have the power to make a wanted change.

Even though it may seem like things are just too much to handle, when you learn how to manage unwanted change and how to create wanted change, life just gets easier.  When you have the right knowledge and tools, there’s nothing stopping you from building the career and the life you truly want.    

This week I’m going to discuss how to handle unwanted change, and the process to make a wanted change.  

How to handle unwanted change

This is a very interesting moment in time that we are experiencing right now.  Every generation has had various economic, social and health crises, and the year 2020 will be one for the history books, no matter where you live or what you do for a living.

When it comes to change, there is bad news and good news – the bad news is that life is supposed to have challenges and is constantly changing; the good news is that the better you get at handling change, the easier your life gets.

The simple truth is that your brain doesn’t like change even though our planet and everything that has existed on it has adapted and changed over the millenia for survival.  For example, humans no longer stand hunched over, covered in course hair all over our bodies, certain fish have adapted to living on land and science has eradicated a good deal of illnesses over the past few decades.

Change is what has sustained us and helped us to survive.  The issue is that in modern times, we aren’t actually challenged as much as we were when we lived in the days of gladiators, therefore we seem to be more sensitive to, and unprepared for, those unwanted changes that sneak up on us.

Unwanted changes that are forced on you, like a health issue or a financial crisis, can feel like someone knocked you over the head with a two by four.  The change could be big or small – it could be a mammogram showing something concerning or your children’s summer camp being canceled.

Whether it’s big or small, everyone has an individual way of handling unwanted changes, which is why it’s important that you understand your way:

  • What is your attitude towards change?
  • Do challenges make you better or bitter?
  • Do they make you stronger or weaker?
  • Do you accept or resist them?  
  • Do you see them as opportunities or threats?

The interesting thing about unwanted changes, is that you really can’t quit them like you can with a wanted change.  For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you could quit your diet or exercise routine whenever you wanted, but with an unwanted change like a diagnosis, there’s nothing to quit.

With a wanted change, there’s an escape button; you can give up whenever you want because you chose to make the change in the first place.  By not having the option to quit an unwanted change, it actually gives you the opportunity to grow and become stronger.

When it comes to unwanted change, it really all comes down to your attitude.  You can say “I didn’t ask for this.  This is unfair” or you could say “I didn’t ask for this.  Now what can I do from this point on?” – one attitude is powerless and the other is empowering.

Maybe you’ve already experienced the power of accepting an unwanted change.  For example, your children need to be homeschooled and you’ve accepted that, while you didn’t want this situation, you are going to use the unwanted change as an opportunity to spend more time with your kids and let go of some of the expectations you had for them and yourself.

Look back over your life at unwanted changes you’ve already experienced:

  • Did they make you stronger?
  • Did they make you smarter?
  • Are you more resilient?
  • Did they show you something about yourself that you hadn’t known before?
  • How are you different now than you were then?
  • How did the unwanted change actually change you for the better?

One of the biggest unwanted changes I’ve ever experienced was the unexpected death of my mother a few years ago.  Before she suddenly died, I knew I could call her at any time for a shoulder to cry on, for sage advice and to be my greatest cheerleader when I needed a boost of confidence.

At her wake I remember asking a distant cousin “Who’s going to tell me how special I am?”, in the way that only a mother can.  There were so many things about her passing that were unexpected, unfair and challenging for myself and my whole family.

As with all unwanted changes, I had a choice – I could say “This shouldn’t have happened” or I could say “This happened; now what?” One way was going to keep me stuck in victimhood and the other was going to make me more resilient. 

Once the dust settled I could see that only focusing on what I lost or what I was missing, was not allowing me to see how I could become stronger and become a better mother myself, because of the loss of my mother.  I began to give myself the shoulder to cry on, the sage advice and to create confidence in ways I never had before.

Unwanted changes offer you a big opportunity when you choose your attitude towards them and decide how you want to show up for them.  Not only will you be helping yourself, but your children are watching and absorbing how you handle unwanted change in your life and in theirs.

The process to make a wanted change

The interesting thing about unwanted and wanted changes is that the process is the same – your brain doesn’t like change and you need to override its natural inclination to avoid it at all costs.  Basically, your attitude, both in unwanted and wanted changes, is the determining factor.

As I just shared, in making a wanted change, you also have to grapple with the escape button.  It’s easy to give up on a wanted change when it becomes uncomfortable, when it challenges you or when you don’t get the results you want soon enough.

Therefore, how you choose to think about the wanted change is going to determine how successful you are in the end.  The lower part of your brain, whose job is to keep you alive, has the attitude of “why bother” when it comes to a wanted change; therefore, you need to have compassion towards yourself when you want to give up.

Giving up is even more common in our modern times – 2 day Amazon delivery and Netflix streaming movies 24/7 have made it incredibly difficult for us to wait.  We are all so accustomed to immediate gratification that it can be challenging to want to make a change, but have to wait for the results.

It’s important to note that your lower brain has neural pathways of connections that make practiced skills, like brushing your teeth or driving your car, seem effortless.  But just like you’ve probably found yourself accidentally driving to the office on a typical work day when you were actually supposed to go to a client, your lower brain is just following the pathway titled “Work day driving destination”.

This is good news because you can always create a new pathway connection in your brain to achieve any wanted change that you desire.  By understanding how to use the higher part of your brain, you can make a wanted change, but you also have to accept that it does take time to create that new neural pathway.   

Since your immediate-gratification-loving brain will hit the escape button when it doesn’t see progress right away, it’s important to create incremental gratification and to purposefully see progress along the way.  Your brain needs to be coaxed into sticking with the wanted change by seeing small progress, because its natural inclination is to resist.

If you’ve ever been on a long line at the airport, you’ll understand this – your brain would rather be on a long line that is moving, than a short line that isn’t.  The reason is because your brain likes progress; it gets pleasure from knowing what to expect and a long line that is moving consistently is more comfortable than the unknown of the short line that isn’t moving.  

To make a wanted change, start to think about the less obvious progress that you can use as a measure of your success along the way towards that change:

  • Are there things that you didn’t know before, that you know now?
  • Are you noticing feeling a little bit better as you move forward?
  • Are you taking one small action a day towards your goal?
  • Are you choosing thoughts that are encouraging?

When making a wanted change you need to find a way to monitor and acknowledge progress.  Start to notice the overall trend towards the result you want, and stop each day to pay attention to your progress, while also deciding to recommit as well.

A few years ago I decided to try jogging; I was about 50 years old at the time.  At first I was shocked that I even had the desire since I hadn’t played any sport of any kind my entire life, but there I was one weekend in November with a strange urge to learn how to jog.

At first my thoughts were, “Are you crazy!  You can’t start something like this at 50” and “You know you never stick to anything so why would this be any different”.  My brain had a lot of resistance to this wanted change but I knew that the resistance was totally normal and manageable.

It took me many months of very small progress and recommitting every day to this wanted change, but in the end it was so worth it.  I got to run a 5k at an event sponsored by the NY Rangers, my favorite hockey team, and got to be high-fived at the start line by my favorite player from when I was a teenager.

Besides monitoring progress in various ways, it’s also important that you are on to your brain’s fear of failure.  Your lower brain interprets failure as dangerous to your survival so you need to notice this tendency and gently direct it towards the long-term result you want as opposed to the short-term fear of failure.

Failure isn’t the goal-ending, dream-stealing thing that your brain tells you it is.  It’s often a necessary part of the process of change; when you know what doesn’t work or what you don’t want, you make progress towards what does work and what you do want.

Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all way to succeed at making a change.  You have to use the higher part of your brain to decide that failure is OK; that it doesn’t mean anything about you, but instead means there’s something else to learn and try.

Whether you are dealing with unwanted or wanted changes in your life, how you decide to think about them all is your key to success.  Change is inevitable, so you may as well learn how to manage and master it in a way that has you creating what you really want for your life.

Summary  

  • As the saying goes, the one constant in our lives is change, and it seems like we have all been thrust into a giant wave of change lately.
  • Even though it may seem like things are just too much to handle, when you learn how to manage unwanted change and how to create wanted change, life just gets easier.
  • The simple truth is that your brain doesn’t like change even though our planet and everything that has existed on it has adapted and changed over the millenia for survival.
  • The interesting thing about unwanted changes, is that you really can’t quit them like you can with a wanted change
  • The lower part of your brain, whose job is to keep you alive, has the attitude of “why bother” when it comes to a wanted change; therefore, you need to have compassion towards yourself when you want to give up.
  • To make a wanted change, start to think about the less obvious progress that you can use as a measure of your success along the way towards that change