Wisdom//

How To Make Change Less Stressful

We can't always anticipate our next “I didn’t see that coming” moment.

Gorynvd/ Shutterstock
Gorynvd/ Shutterstock

How many times have you said in your life or in your career, “Oh my gosh, it all happened so fast. I didn’t even see it coming.” For me, these moments surprised me because I had settled into autopilot. Not all coasting is bad, it’s important to relax and enjoy success, but too much comfort zone indulgence leaves us vulnerable to being caught off guard.

If you’re having an “I didn’t see that coming” moment as a result of a career or relationship change, it can feel disorienting. Unless it’s a party or a gift, I’ve never been a huge fan of surprises when they rock my life or career. Luckily, when I was learning to drive, my dad taught me a valuable lesson that helped me prepare so change wouldn’t knock me down so hard. He frequently told me, “Always be looking for a soft spot to land.”

As I got older and transferred this advice off the road and on to my career journey, I started to notice that it helped me embrace sudden changes in direction and shift my mindset to actually anticipate them. When I’m anticipating that there will be obstacles and sudden course changes, I became less attached to my present situation. I knew it could, and would, change at any time. Whether I caused the change (hello, leaving Corporate America!) or it happened to me, I awakened to the fact that my worry and stress wasn’t caused my new future, but my refusal to embrace it.

Here’s something to consider. What’s creating more stress – is it the impending change? Or, is it your resistance to those changes? Our ego is really involved here, and that is why it is so tricky. Our ego loves comfort. It loves entangling itself into an identity built upon shaky foundations such as title, status, relationship, income, etc. When our ego is running the show, it doesn’t want to lose what it believes to be life’s most important things, so it holds on tight and resists.

Anticipating change eases the tension between letting go of the old and reaching toward the new.

Kelli Thompson

Here are two ways to release the ego’s grip and soften the tension between resisting the old and anticipating the new.

Embrace Renewal

Whether you’re aware of it or not, my guess is that most of you engage in some sort of ritual to keep you looking young. Facials. Exfoliation. Loofah sponges. The irony to revealing youth is you have to lose the dead skin that keeps us dull so the new, fresh, brilliant skin can keep us looking young.

This might feel easy because we often don’t have much ego attachment to our old skin cells, but reflect on the metaphor of death and renewal which illustrates the cycle that creates brilliance, energy and beauty. Reflect on your stress. Is it present because you’re holding onto the old? What do you need to shed in your career or life so that you can emerge more brilliant, more useful, more energetic?

Anticipate Changes

Returning to my dad’s driving advice, looking for a soft spot to land is important because you never know when you’re going to be driving down the interstate at 75 miles an hour and a car swerves into your lane or there is an obstacle in the road that requires a quick reaction.  Transforming this to career advice, I begin to consistently ask myself, “How can I always be looking for my soft spot to land when I’m cruising down my career interstate and I think everything is going well?” It helped to keep a set of readiness questions handy.

  • Am I challenging myself so that my skills are relevant as the market changes?
  • What have I done recently to foster relationships and connections? If changes happen, could I maneuver quickly by making a phone call? And likewise, if something happens to a friend or colleague of mine, could they call me?
  • What risk have I recently taken to keep me stretching my comfort zone?
  • To whom can I offer help? This builds short and long-term connections.

As you’re driving down the interstate of your career (or life!), think about finding that soft spot to land. It helps create the mental flexibility to prepare one of life’s guarantees – change and evolution – with ease. Taking small steps to renew and anticipate change eases the tension between letting go of the old and reaching toward the toward the new. The final thought I’ll leave you with is one of my favorite one liners from my old boss, Cy Wakeman. She said, “The best way to greet change is with a simple ‘good to know’.”

Greet change with a simple, “good to know.”

Cy Wakeman

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