The emotional onslaught that can come with a sudden change is overwhelming. That moment, when in the blink of an eye, your world as you know it changes. Maybe you received some news. Perhaps you witnessed an event, or something happened to you. Maybe you just realised that you can’t continue your life as it has been and that something has to change: something has to go so something else can grow. And you sit, as if in a cone of silence, while the world continues around you...with no one else aware that you’re absorbing, attempting to process...to grapple at meaning...and all you can hear is a distant rumble of emotion making its way towards you. What do I do? What just happened? What happens next? Should I call someone?
These emotions can take time to process. How long it takes depends on the individual, what you experienced, and how you respond to change. In my opinion, it’s important to allow yourself to absorb and process the emotions. Some situations require safety (of yourself and/or others) to be secured first...and when you’re in a safe environment, allow those emotions to come. It may help to write, let it all out: your concerns, fears, hopes, and opportunities. In a moment, I’m going to take you through 5 Steps to Navigating Change. Writing your responses to each of these steps will help to sift through what’s happened, where you’re going, and what you’re going to do next.
These 5 steps are a road map I’ve developed for finding my way through any change. They can be used for sudden change or that evolving change that sneaks up on you until you have that ah-ha moment of realisation that ‘something has to change’. The difference between the two in terms of using these 5 steps is the time you give to actioning the steps. With sudden change you usually want to or need to move through the steps quickly to secure your environment...and then go through them again to put a more solid forward plan in place. With evolving change you’re likely to have way more time to allow your plans to unfold. Of course, these statements are generalisations – every situation is different for different people. Once you’ve tried the steps, you can put your own spin on them for the situations you experience.
Step 1: Define Here.
Firstly, write down what happened. Sometimes something seems so overwhelming we don’t fully grasp what’s just happened. When you write it down you get a better grasp on the size and parameters of what you’re dealing with. So, what happened? Who’s involved? Who does the change affect? How much time do you have to put a solution in place (if a solution is needed)?
Step 2: Define There.
Next step is to identify where you want to go. What’s the end goal you’re aiming for? Name it. If you leave it vague and just ‘want to get away from where you are’ you could end up anywhere – and perhaps in a situation ‘worse’ than where you are now. What do you want? Where are you going? Choose your destination.
If you don’t know what you want as the ‘ultimate end goal’ – then choose then next milestone you can see ahead of you. Name that. What can you aim for right now? Once you get to that milestone, your way may become clearer to the end goal, or to the next milestone after that.
Step 3.Make a plan.
This step has two parts: the external and the internal.
The external plan is for the practical to do list. What are all the practical things you need to take do move from Step 1 (where you are now) to Step 2 (where you want to go)? Do you need to make appointments? Meet someone? Prepare documents? Visit real estate? Research options online? What do you need to do?
Once you have a list of the practical things you need to do, identify the things on your list that are the most urgent through to the things that can happen later. Group them logically in ways that have meaning to you. For example, things you can do at the same time, or things that require the same level of brain attention, tasks you can do with the kids at home, things you’ll need to do by yourself when the kids are at school or with a babysitter...or asleep in bed.
Use the prioritising of tasks and grouping to put these tasks into your calendar or planner. Some tasks can be done first thing in the morning, others when you’re down the street, others when you’re watching TV and researching on your laptop or phone at the same time.
The internal plan is for the emotional processing and shifts that will have happened in the lead up to the change, at the moment of change, and in the aftermath and readjustment to world as you now know it. It’s so important to pay attention to what’s happening on the inside, just as much as the outside. Change is often messy, and it’s crazy how we’re conditioned to get back to smooth sailing (or at least the appearance of it) so quickly. Change. Has. Just. Happened. Your world may’ve just imploded, turned upside down, or been completely relocated. It’s okay to give yourself the space you need to take that in.
Unlike external planning, you can’t simply make a to do list of all that needs to be done to address the internal planning. Instead, it starts with connecting to your feelings about the change. How do you feel about it? What emotions come to the surface when you reflect on it? Don’t feel like you have to rush this. Take your time to step into the emotions and process them. But don’t pack them away forever. Suppressed emotions have a way of working their way to the surface...sometimes when you least expect it! It can help to write about your emotions such as in a journal, or speak with someone about them...someone who will listen and not judge, criticise, or feel the need to ‘fix’ them for you. If you’re looking for actual ‘steps’ to help you...start with reading a book about the change you’ve just experienced. There are many authors out there who have written about their personal experiences and can provide thoughtful direction to help others going through that experience right now.
Step 4: Take Action.
This step is so important. Many people simply make a list of things to do and stop there. If you want to move towards your end goal, you have to do something about it. Take action on the steps you wrote down. Make progress on your external and internal plans.
If you lose your place, go back over the steps. What happened? Where are you going? What do you need to do to get there? Do it.
Step 5. Acknowledge and Review.
This last step is and end point and a step you can insert anywhere throughout the four other steps.
It’s a time to acknowledge what you’ve done, the progress you’ve made (externally and internally), and celebrate wins and milestones.
It’s also a great time to review where you’re at. Your Define Here will be different to where you were. You’re in a different place, and a different headspace. Is your Define There still relevant or has your goal shifted? It’s okay if it has...it’s your goal! Are there additional steps you need to take, or steps you can drop? Do you have greater awareness of your internal processing, or do you need to ask someone for help? Are you committing to taking action, or are you resisting action for some reason? Is that something you need to work through? What about acknowledging yourself? Does that come easily, or do you brush it off and ‘get on with the work’?
Change usually happens for a reason. Even if you can’t see it at the time.
These five steps can be used over and over again, in just about any change situation. They can help to give a framework to that emotion and shock of change when it first hits, to propel you forward and on a pathway to an end goal.
Why not give them a go, and see if they work for you?
Looking for some extra help? Download the How to Stay Sane as you Navigate Change workbook available from the home page. This workbook takes you through Steps 1 and 2 in much greater detail so you can apply them to your current change experience.
Trust all is well in your world,
Life experience has taught me a lot about change - its messiness and my desire to circumnavigate it in a more efficient way. In this blog I share my experience so you too can survive change with a smile on your face!