Are You Struggling with Change in Your Life?


ChangeAs Tom Hanks so crispy put it in the film Forest Gump, “Change happens.”

Change happens.

After years of having Thanksgiving and Christmas at our cabin with our two grown sons and their families, this year is different. Some moved to Seattle. The other to Denver. We sold their adjoining cabin to some nice folks. No opening presents at the cabin or sliding down its hills into the lake. No collaborative tree decorating, reminiscing with stories around ornament histories. Our traditions have changed.

Webster’s Dictionary defines change as, “to make different in form; to transform’; to give and take reciprocally; to transfer from one to another; to become different; to alter; to remove and replace coverings; to pass from one phase to another; a variation or deviation.”

All these definitions resonate with the changes that happen during career transition.

Change is certainly a constant in our lives. It happens anywhere and everywhere. It can be permanent or temporary. You can want it, and plan for it. It can also pull the rug out from under you. One client told me, “I don’t know what happened. I was rolling along, and suddenly I had no job, and no idea of what to do next.”

People resist change because they:

  • Want to keep the status quo – still dreaming of how things were: “I miss my job, even though I knew it in my sleep, and found it boring; I wish I were still there.”
  • Don’t feel ready: “Why couldn’t this have happened a few years down the road? I’m not ready for a workplace downsizing now!”
  • Are stuck in old habits or routines: “I’ve been checking in every day with my staff to see how my project is going.”
  • Fear the unknown: “I can’t picture doing something different. I’ve done this work most my life. I have no idea what I can do next. I feel anxious and scared about the future.”
  • Want to hold onto tradition: “I’ve always done it like this. I’m used to it. How do I change now?”
  • Fear taking a risk or what others will think: “I’m not comfortable networking to find a new job. I’m overwhelmed by the internet in searching for a job too. Where on earth do I start?”

You can resist resistance to move forward:

  • Pinpoint and undo the ties that bind you.
  • Confront and challenge the problems and barriers that are preventing you from acting.
  • Get to the work of developing a realistic plan of action.

What if you don’t do these three things? You risk getting stuck in worry, anxiety, fear and negativity ; in analysis paralysis.

Pat’s inspiration and lessons learned:

My client, Pat had worked his way up the ladder with a Fortune 500 company. He started as a junior accountant, and steadily moved up to the role of Senior Vice President of Finance. When his company downsized, he faced an unexpected life change. “After 35 years with the same company, my life has been full of patterns and routines. I felt that I was losing both my stature and my network,” he told me.

He said that initially, he intended to stay busy job searching. He did land interviews and networking meetings. The feedback was that he was too expensive. “At age 60, doors were closing all around me,” Pat said.

So, when a cousin suggested they move near him in warm, sunny New Mexico, Pat and his wife decided to take the plunge. They sublet their apartment up north for six months, and moved. For a while, Pat worked for a well-known coffee franchise in his new home state, directly serving customers behind the till. Then, he opened his own store! His change in employment inspired him to try new venues and options. He hired good managers, explored the business of coffee shops.

In short, Pat spent time in a neutral zone of exploration, without fully giving up his past roots. The lessons George learned were:

  • Take risks.
  • Don’t reject an idea until you’ve tried it.
  • Explore options that appeal to you, even if they seem unusual.
  • Breaks from the old patterns can be a time to find your authentic self.

Change can be uncomfortable. And so many of us are resistant to change. It’s not always easy. I’m reframing my own thoughts from “no more cabin holiday celebrations” to “certainly there might be future cabin celebrations during the holidays; and I get to visit two amazing cities where my family is healthy, waiting and ready to start new traditions!”

“We must be the change we want to see.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

How are you tackling change in your career or life? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.