What do smoking, and drinking and driving, have in common? They're examples of social behaviors that have been radically challenged and changed in the last couple of decades. There was a time when both were considered mostly acceptable; today - neither are crowd pleasers, and for good reasons.
Recently, I spent the better part of a day with a man who is the victim of a drunk driver. I say he is and not was a victim because, in a split second, that careless driver sentenced this young man to a wheelchair...for life. At 7:23pm, while driving on a near-empty stretch of highway, his routine drive home became the last time he would spend - even a few minutes - pain free. He sustained multiple injuries and now, through no fault of his own, spends most of his day struggling to recall, from hour to hour, what is happening around him. He's a well-educated engineer, husband and father of two great kids. For the past 8 years his life has been nothing like he had dreamed it would be.
Spending time with someone so impacted by someone else's choices has made me consider change in a different light. Sometimes we get caught in other people's decisions, and for better or worse, and we can find ourselves living out the consequences of someone else's actions.
This happens all the time at work, doesn't it? A leader, key customer, or board of directors chooses a course of action that triggers layoffs, project cancellations or cutbacks. A product line changes and a team, or a whole company, go in a different direction, and hundreds are left in the wake.
So, what can you do when the change you have to make is the result of someone else's choice? How can we get past the resentment and, in some cases bitterness, of being 'forced' into a job, situation or a life that we never thought would happen?
I asked my young friend that same question. He told me that he had wasted (his words) too many months being angry and feeling sorry for himself. He said that, if he'd have known how much energy his resistance to his new reality was stealing from him, he'd have chosen to accept his circumstances sooner than he did. He said that he would have put all his energy into creating a way to live with his limitations sooner, and look harder at what he still has control over.
Chances are that most of us won't have to face a traumatic re-order of our lives, but all of us are handed changes that we don't like....that we didn't choose. Daily we're required by the government, our employers, friends and families to stop orstart doing something that we would not have chosen to change on our own.
If you have found yourself in this position, here are a few tips to get you moving out of resistance - into your life again:
Throw yourself a 'Whine & Gees' party. That's right, one hour to feel as sorry as you can for yourself and your circumstances. Invite your friends. Yell, cry, stomp and wallow...then take three deep breaths, clean yourself up and DO something you haven't done yet.
Make a list of the parts of your situation that you control and those you don't - then rip the list in half, and post up the list of what is within your control. This is your new list - you're only list now...study it for clues about your next steps forward
Spend time with someone who has been through what is in front of you. Ask them to share their ideas and keep you honest. Give them permission to call you out if they see you getting stuck in resistance.
Learn a new problem-solving technique. There are lots out there...find one and apply the principles to your circumstances. If it doesn't work...try another one.
Sometimes change is fun, easy...sometimes it's bone crushing hard. Either way, the sooner you get past the past, the quicker you will find a path to a better place.
If you're being handed changes you don't like, and you want a thinking partner to help you find a path forward...call me.