Does your life feel more like the agony of defeat than the thrill of victory? It can feel that way when life changes are hard, and everything seems to be happening TO you rather than FOR you.
What if making a few adjustments here and there could shift the tide a bit? It often takes only small shifts in a couple of places to get things moving in a different and better direction when life changes are harder than you expected.
I love what Robin Sharma said: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”
You can take this to heart. When life is hard and you step into it with hope, the messy part in the middle can move you to a much better place. Just keep moving through the change so you can find the gorgeous at the end.
There are some things you can keep in mind along the way. Put some of these into practice to make the moving through easier and more graceful. Pick the ones that feel possible at first, then add one more. Taking small steps through major life changes, especially the hard ones, is the best way to get to the gorgeous part.
When Life Changes…
And you know it will. This is a time to face it head on and decide how you will show up. As you face one change after another your resilience muscle will strengthen. Some changes will be small in comparison to massive changes, like the loss of a loved one, a breakup or divorce or being without a job. Building your resilience is an important piece of bouncing back when life changes.
Resistance Keeps You in Pain
Resisting the truth of the matter is a sure-fire way of getting mired in the suffering of the situation you’re in. What has happened, happened. The way it is is the way it is. Facing that truth will lead you down a path to healing from the pain. Simple, but not easy. Stop resisting what is.
Reset Your Expectations
You may be stuck because things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Did you expect too much, or try to change someone so your expectations could be met? Take a hard look at what you were expecting. Ask yourself some questions—was I being reasonable? Did I want more than s/he could give? Was I really doing an excellent job, or was I pretending to? Being brutally honest with yourself can open your mind and heart to a way of thinking differently about your expectations. Perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button. Here’s some wise inspiration from the Dalai Lama: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
Shift Your Attitude
How you approach any situation will determine how you overcome it. You’ve heard that attitude is everything, I’m sure. Think about people you know who have risen above difficult circumstances—a devastating diagnosis, a horrible accident, multiple family losses at once. What do they have in common? An attitude that allows them to see things from a positive vantage point. When you shift your attitude, you will see things in a different light. This leads to acceptance. As you find yourself accepting change in life, the positive attitude becomes a welcomed fixture.
Change What You Can
Spending time trying to change things (or people) that are not within your power to change can be frustrating, to say the least. That’s a “live and learn” message from someone who used to be a master at this. What makes you think you can turn an apple into an orange? Switch your energy to exploring what is in your power to change—starting with you—and take some steps to change that. The miraculous thing that happens when you do, is things start to change around you. Mostly because you are changing the way you’re looking at things. Ponder this for a moment, or as my mother used to say, “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
Think About It Differently
As you start to focus on what you can change in your circumstance you will likely notice that you’re thinking about things differently. Resetting expectations, shifting your attitude and changing what you can contribute to a shift in how you see and think about the things that influence your circumstance. It’s like looking through a different lens that makes things bigger or brings them closer. Practice this. See it from another point of view. Step into someone else’s shoes. What does it look like from there? This can be an eye-opening experience—literally.
Focus on Gratitude
We hear this all the time. Have an attitude of gratitude. It may sound trite and overused, but it works. There is scientific evidence that gratitude practice can improve your overall well-being. It activates chemicals in the brain which reduce stress and produce feelings of pleasure. Who doesn’t want more of that? If such a simple thing—like starting and ending your day making a list of 3-5 things for which you are grateful—could have such a dramatic impact, who wouldn’t do it?
Take Your Position
Decide who you are in any situation when life changes are hard. You could be the victim. Or the victor. You could be the windshield, or you could be the bug. You could continue to look in the rearview mirror and bemoan what got you here, or you could look through the windshield and explore all the possibilities ahead. It’s a choice. Take your position. Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Smart guy, that Socrates.
Learn from the Lessons
For some, when life changes are harder than they ever thought possible, it feels like they failed. What if we switched that line of thinking? There is no such thing as failure; there are only lessons to be learned so you can do it better next time. Find the lessons.
Get Motivated to Move
Here’s another choice you get to make. Stay where you are or move from that spot. Create movement in your life so you can do some of the other things recommended here. Movement helps you see things from another angle. It helps you to change what you can and propels you in a new direction. It takes energy to move, so you can’t help but shift molecules in your body that create a momentum shift. And so it begins.
What If It Was Your Idea?
Sometimes life happens to you. You didn’t ask for this to happen and you didn’t want it. But here it is. What are you going to do now? A colleague asked me this question when I was laid off from my 20-year career, which devastated me. Until this question flipped a switch: What if it was your idea? This goes back to shifting attitude, thinking about it differently, and taking your position. It’s another way of thinking when life is hard, and it wasn’t your idea. What if it was? How would you react then?
You’re Never Alone
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” From the mouth of Helen Keller, we learn the importance of reaching out for help when we are challenged by life. Surround yourself with trusted advisors—friends, family, and professionals—who understand what you’re going through. Life is easier when you rely on different perspectives, assistance from those who have been through something similar, and support so you never feel alone.
Talk is Therapy
Talk it out. Listen to yourself talk about it. What are the words you are using to describe the change you’re going through? Are your internal voices supporting your journey to get through this, or are they sabotaging you at every turn? Listen carefully and choose to change the negative self-talk. Find the people who can listen and offer you encouragement. Many times, just hearing yourself can change the way you express your thoughts and feelings to become more positive, reassuring and empowering. Talking about it is great therapy.
Make Intentional Changes
When it comes time to move forward, be intentional about which steps you choose to take first, second and third. Make conscious choices about where you want to go next. Test the waters. If the first couple of steps don’t feel quite right, step back. Course-correcting from small steps, rather than giant leaps, is so much easier. Just remember, standing still and doing nothing reaps you nothing in return.
Timing is Everything
There is a time for everything, including moving forward. Strong emotions can creep in when you’re changing. Grief. Sorrow. Doubt. And so many more. Be sure you give yourself time to experience those emotions, but be careful you don’t allow them to hold you back artificially. These kinds of emotions can keep you stuck and feeling immobilized if you allow them. So, this is a delicate dance. Examine your response to the emotions and decide if you just need a bit more time to grieve, for instance, so you feel ready and motivated to move beyond it. This is another time for reaching out for help, so you’re clear about the role these emotions are playing in your journey through change.
This is not necessarily a spiritual statement, but it could be depending upon your beliefs. Faith comes in many flavors. Faith in yourself, in a higher being upon which you lean heavily, and faith that this hard life experience is not forever. When you have faith that you will overcome, your ability to move forward is supported by something bigger than you. Ritu Ghatourey put it this way: “You are not what you have done. You are what you have overcome.”
Believe in Yourself
Like having faith, believing in yourself is foundational to moving beyond where you are today. Believing that you can, rather than you can’t—that you can change yourself so you can become who you want to be. Build resilience as you grow and continue on when life changes are hard. The more you believe, the easier the next change will be.
Don’t Give Up
If you’ve never heard Jim Valvano’s inspiring speech at the Espy Awards before he passed, it will inspire you. I never get tired of hearing it, because it inspires me every time. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” It’s my final message for you here. Giving up is not an option if you want to change something.
When life changes are harder than you ever imagined possible, listen to Jim’s speech. Know that you can make small moves forward and, before you know it, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. Remember, you’re never alone.
Stepping onto Your Bridge
When life-changing moments flip the world upside down, I create a bridge for women so they can turn chaos into calm, build resilience and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. If you’re ready to take the first step onto your bridge and explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, get my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.