What To Do When You Need To Make Adjustments In Life
On a scale of 1 to 10, how are you at adjusting to life’s swerves and curves?
Why do I ask that?
Because you do it a lot.
Every single day you adjust to what is going on around and within you.
As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the 6th century BCE, once said, “The only constant in life is change.”
You have plenty of opportunities to perfect your adjustment to it.
Many times, these adjustments are made consciously, seamlessly and confidently (think: switching out your sunglasses for your umbrella when you hear thunder as you head outside), while other times they occur without you even realizing it (as in your eyes adjusting to the dark).
And then there are the times that the need for adjustment slaps you in the face and stops you dead in your tracks.
The external situation (or change) at hand is big: a complete 180 turn, uncharted territory, from what you are ‘used to’ or expecting it to be.
You know change is imminent, and adjustments will need to be made, yet you are unsure of the impending path and outcomes.
One example is change in leadership at the workplace.
You may have experienced this yourself.
A new boss comes in and, just like that, you are uncertain of what may happen next. All kinds of thoughts may run through your mind:
- Will the day-to-day operations remain the same?
- Will your role remain the same?
- Will you be held to the same expectations, or more?
- What if they try to change things from ’the way they have always been’?
- What if you have to learn a new way of doing something? Are you capable of it? Do you even want to try?
- What will the workplace dynamics be now?
- How will this change impact the workplace environment?
What adjustments are in store for you?
Or how about a health situation as an example?
You wake up feeling “different” one morning, visit your doctor, only to find out that you need surgery.
Woah! This was surely not on your plan for the day or even the year.
Just like that, you are uncertain of what may happen next. Again, all kinds of thoughts might run through your mind:
- What are the options?
- What is the expected outcome?
- How will this affect your quality of life afterwards?
- Can your body handle this? Can your mind handle this?
- Who will be around to support you as you recover?
- How much will you need to rely on family or outside help? How much will this affect them?
- Is it worth the risks?
Again, what adjustments are in store for you?
I have been party to both of these situations these past few months.
I know the struggles and realizations that my colleagues, family, friends, and myself are experiencing.
I also know we are not alone in these.
How is it possible to navigate such situations with strength and grace?
When complex situations like these are thrust upon you, you often need to step back for a moment and regroup so that, as you transition forward, your best choices are made with clarity and confidence.
William Bridges, a preeminent authority on change and transition, defined transition as “the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about.”
See, you are not only faced with making adjustments in relation to external situations, you are also making adjustments to your own internal thinking, feeling and sensing as well.
The internal process you go through, according to Bridges (What Is Transition, Feb 2019), goes something like this:
This first phase of transition begins with you identifying what is at stake, what will require letting go of, and how you are going to take action to accommodate what you have let go. You may feel resistance and doubt, and find yourself comparing the “old” to the “new” situation.
In the workplace this plays out with the uncertainty of your role or being moved out of your comfort zone, or your fear of losing things that ’always were’.
In your health this plays out by reflecting on the things you may not be able to do anymore, how you may need to do things differently, and/or mourning the loss of your independence, if only for a while.
This is the heart of the transition process, where you make the purposeful choice to move from situation “a” to “b”. This is when you are exploring, asking questions, adjusting, and navigating the options and possibilities. You may be trying things out here and there, but have not yet settled permanently into the new role or situation.
In the workplace and your health, this is when you are researching, questioning, clarifying, making choices, and creating a plan of action.
In this phase of the process you are accepting the changes, embracing your next steps, and feel yourself moving forward with recharged clarity and purpose.
In your workplace you recognize the opportunities you have ahead of you, the choices you have control of, and understand the new lay of the land. You are informed and able to make conscious choices that are in the best interest of all.
In your health, you understand the risks and benefits of your options, you make your decision based upon what is best for you and your vision for your future, and you acknowledge that although you may need to do some things differently, you are ready for it.
Knowing that there is a process while making adjustments reminds you that you may not necessarily be ’stuck’, you are just moving along the continuum of adjustment at your own pace.
Now that you are aware of the process of adjustment,
here are a few tips to help you through that process.
They have come in handy for me recently:
Invite your support system in – Whether your supporters lend an ear, shoulder or hand, you benefit from being able to share your thoughts, needs and struggles. And it gives them a meaningful way to support you (because you know there are folks who want to help you but sometimes do not want to ’bother you’ at these times, or do not know how to help).
Let your emotions flow – Yes, all of them! Allow yourself to feel exactly what you are feeling, no sugar-coating, minimizing, or denying. You will feel the whole range of emotions by going through this process, so acknowledge each emotion, then let it pass into the next one. Emotions are natural!
Seek solutions – Take the opportunity to seek multiple and varied solutions. As you ask questions and explore findings, do not be afraid to look “outside the box” for options. Plus, seeking solutions gives you a focus; a purpose; a sense of taking ownership of your part in the process.
Hold on to who you are – Just because external circumstances are changing does not mean that you need to change your values. You may not have control of the situation, but you do have a lot of control over how you respond. Stay true to yourself.
Expect the unexpected – Even as you are in the process of adjusting to new situations, know that change may be just around the corner again! It can kind of be like a rollercoaster sometimes. Being open to expecting the unexpected lessens your stress and increases your ability to go with the flow.
Anytime you are presented with a big or unexpected change it can be confusing and overwhelming, but it is possible to navigate it with strength and grace.
So, how are you at adjusting to life’s swerves and curves?
“Life at any time can become difficult, life at any time can become easy. Good or bad, they are seasons of life. It all depends upon how you take on life and adjust to these seasons.”
~ Becky Johnen
If the sun is shining, my Crosstrek is calling me to fill up her tank, throw open her sunroof, and head for the back-roads. With wind in my hair, I smile at everyone I see. Grace smiles back at me (even through the trees).