Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomfort.Arnold Bennett
Understanding Unexpected Change
There are two kinds of change in your life. The first is the unexpected kind of change that is often forced upon you by unforeseen events and circumstances. The second is planned change that you have had time to think about and prepare for. Let’s deal with the unexpected change first.
It’s important to understand that unexpected change is a natural part of life, because the reality is that nothing lasts forever. It’s however not only natural, but rather also necessary. It’s necessary because it leads to growth — helping you to experience life in a new way. This often leads to new perspectives and likewise helps you to acquire wisdom from your new found experience and knowledge.
Of course unexpected change can be dramatic, challenging and uncomfortable. However, it can also be very beneficial if handled thoughtfully. For this very reason, unexpected change is actually best dealt with a curious mindset coupled together with an experimental approach. These two form a powerful combination that will help you to get through the unexpected surprises that life throws your way.
Unexpected change can at times transform your life in dramatic ways. This change may require that you form some new habits and routines, while letting go of old habits and patterns of behavior that may no longer serve you. At the same time, it’s important to always stay open to the possibilities and the opportunities that may exist as a result of this change.
Yes, unexpected change is often sudden and scary, however it can be incredibly beneficial and rewarding at the same time.
The Benefits of Unexpected Change
Unexpected change may suddenly throw your life out of balance. And it might initially seem as though things have changed for the worse, however if you take some time to reflect and look below the surface of this change, you may in fact find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
Unexpected change is beneficial because it forces you to grow emotionally and physically. It presents an opportunity for you to strengthen your emotional resolve and lay down the path for a better future. Likewise this might force you to think differently about the events and circumstances of your life. It might actually force you to reconsider the choices and decisions you have been making up to this point. Maybe this unexpected change might even force you to re-evaluate your priorities and values.
Unexpected change will at times signal a new beginning, and with new beginnings other things must obviously end. The question is, what will you be focusing on? Will you focus on the new beginning and the opportunities it could potentially bring, or will you struggle to accept what you might have lost? The endings will obviously not serve you in the future. So is there any point focusing on them? Instead it’s much better to see the change as a fresh start filled with new opportunities and perspectives that will help you to improve your life for the better.
Unexpected change can help you to develop your resilience and strength of character because it often forces you into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations. This likewise can encourage you to muster up the courage you need to move forward. It may even be the catalyst that stimulates your imagination and forces you to think more creatively about your life and about your ultimate destination.
Finally, unexpected change makes life far more exciting. Just imagine if you went through your entire life without any surprises. How boring would life be? Unexpected change brings some excitement and unpredictability to your life experience that will help to stimulate progress in new and exciting directions.
Of course all these benefits of unexpected change might not always seem very clear on the surface. You might need to do a little digging before you find the nugget of gold or the silver lining. However, in order to find something, you must be open to the possibilities. Therefore never resist the unexpected change that life throws your way. Embrace this change and use it to re-create your life with purpose.
Managing Unexpected Change
The one thing you can be sure of is that your life will change. Even though you might not know what kind of unexpected changes life may bring your way, you can however learn to manage unexpected change much more effectively. Here is a three step process that will shed some light on this area:
This is a “preparation stage”, where you mentally and physically prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Your first step is to be mentally prepared for possible unexpected change that may suddenly appear in your life. This requires that you develop and continuously cultivate courage, curiosity, optimism, gratitude and creativity. All of these habits-of-mind will provide you with the flexibility and strength you need when faced with unexpected circumstances. For instance courage will provide you with the strength to move beyond your fears, curiosity will force you to ask insightful questions, optimism will keep you motivated and moving forward, gratitude will help you to appreciate what you now have, and creativity will allow you to solve those difficult unexpected problems that life will throw your way.
It’s important to also prepare yourself for worst case scenarios. Of course you might not know what life will bring your way a week, a month or a year down the track. However, you can imagine that there are certain possibilities that could eventuate. Some of these possibilities might not be what you want, however it is important to reflect on them and consider how you might potentially handle these circumstances. Thinking about these things will of course be difficult. Nobody wants to consider worst case scenarios. However, the benefits you will derive long-term by thinking ahead, will more than make up for the pain you experience in the moment.
In preparation for unexpected change, ask yourself:
How could my life change in the future?
How could my life change for the better?
How could my life possibly change for the worse?
How could these changes be beneficial?
What possible opportunities might they unleash?
How will I respond to these changes when they happen?
How will I take advantage of these opportunities?
In the end, it’s not what happens to you, but rather how you respond to the unexpected events and circumstances of your life that will make all the difference in the end. Your destiny is securely in your hands, and you must now mold it with purpose.
This is the “response stage” that deals with an unexpected change that has taken place.
Okay, so unexpected change has suddenly reeled it’s ugly head and manifested in your life. It’s now time for you to respond in a positive and proactive way that will help you to make the most of this change in the present moment.
The first thing you must do is acknowledge that this change is bringing forth new possibilities and perspectives that may not have been available before. It’s therefore critical that you are open to new ways of looking at things, and even different ways of doing things. This unexpected change may have benefits that you might not have even imagined. However, you must first stop to see them, then understanding them. Therefore pause for a moment and take everything in. Take things in, one breath at a time. See things in their proper context and with the right perspective that will help you to move forward.
It’s very easy at this time to get caught-up in short-term thinking. Something unexpected has suddenly happened, and your initial reaction is to panic and resist the change that has taken place. This is the most unhelpful thing you can do. Don’t run from this change. Stay calm and collected so that you can think about everything in the best possible light. It’s even helpful at this time to disregard the short-term picture. Instead, think long-term about the bigger picture and how this change can be beneficial in the future. Ask yourself:
What’s the bigger picture?
What am I not seeing about this change that could be advantageous long-term?
Thinking long-term about the bigger picture and the possibilities that might exist has hopefully calmed you down. Now it’s time to look at your current circumstances and deal with the change that has suddenly taken place. Take time to think about what exactly has happened in order to gain clarity about the situation. Ask yourself:
What exactly is happening?
What has changed?
What have I lost?
What have I gained?
Why is all this happening?
Now that you have taken time to gain some clarity about what exactly is happening, it’s important that the next thing you do is to respond in the best possible way to help you move forward with purpose. Continue asking yourself:
What am I able to control?
How must I adapt?
What sacrifices must I potentially make in order to adapt?
What must I potentially let go of in order to adapt?
What are my options moving forward?
Who could potentially help me move forward in a positive way?
What positive action could I take right now?
As you work through these questions, it’s important that you set reasonable expectations. Don’t be unrealistic about your circumstances. Be very real and look at things as a scientist would while working through an experiment. Something unexpected has happened in the lab, and the scientist must now figure out what would be the best course of action moving forward.
Within every situation there will be some things that you will be able to control. For starters you can control your psychology and response to the situation. However, you might also be able to take control of other things that are outside of you. Take control of these things first so that you can gain some influence over these unexpected circumstances. Then with everything else, you must simply adapt and make the best use of the opportunities that are now available.
Finally, take immediate positive action. Don’t let things be. Don’t deny the situation or wait to deal with it later. Things are probably unlikely to improve unless you instigate the change. Therefore as a final step, take some kind of positive action moving forward. Even moving forward in a small way can be of great value in the future.
The final step is to learn from your experience. Once things have calmed down, take some time to think and reflect on what just happened and learn from this experience to help you move forward in a positive way. Ask yourself:
What can I learn from this experience?
What can I learn from this unexpected change?
How did I adapt to this change?
How can I continue adapting in the future to ensure that this is a positive change?
Every step you take moving forward holds within it an important learning experience. Keep learning and then adapt your approach accordingly. Also look at ways you’ve dealt with other unexpected changes in the past and consider how you could potentially apply these learning experiences into your current circumstances.
View everything as an experiment, and have fun with the process. Unexpected change is often never easy, however it’s something you must go through. You can either allow it to control your life, or you can take control and re-create your life with purpose. The choice is yours to make.
Making the Most of Planned Change
Planned change is something you consciously work towards. Maybe there are aspects of your life that you are unhappy with. Maybe you have unhelpful habits that you would like to change. No matter what it is, the power to change things lies completely within your hands. There is nothing suddenly forced upon you. You make the decisions about what to change, how to change, and when you will begin the change.
While working through any kind of planned change, it’s important that you always keep things simple because even planned change is often not easy to manage. Keeping things simple will help you to stay focused on what’s most important when it comes to the change you would like to make in your life. Simplicity also means that you should take small and consistent steps moving towards your desired outcome. This helps you to stay in control of the process of change moving forward.
While taking small and consistent steps is important, it’s absolutely critical that you continuously stretch yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone. Change can only be made when you show a willingness to do something different — something that causes you some form of discomfort. There is no change without discomfort. In fact, the more discomfort you feel the bigger the change you are likely to make. And this is a good thing because it helps you to dramatically shift how you think and do things on a daily basis.
As you move through any kind of planned change, expect that things will not always go your way — things will not always go as planned. You will experience setbacks, problems and you will make mistakes. And that’s perfectly okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the changes you desire to make to your life also won’t happen over night. You must therefore be patient and committed to your end goal no matter how many struggles you face along your journey.
Throughout the process of change, it’s also vital that you maintain high levels of motivation. However, motivation will only be a factor if you are willing and able to take full responsibility for your decisions and actions. Without responsibility there is no accountability, and without accountability there is no motivation to help spur you on throughout this process.
Finally, the reason why you are pursuing this change is probably because it will change your life for the better in some way. This is fantastic. The anticipation of your life changing for the better is what will help keep you motivated and inspired along this journey. You must however keep in mind that no matter what happens, life cannot change unless you change. It’s all an inner-game. Your change must first come from within yourself before it can manifest in the physical world. It’s therefore important that you don’t rely on other people to take responsibility for your progress. It’s rather all up to you. You must take full responsibility for the changes that you would like to make in your life.
What to Avoid Doing
When it comes to making planned change work for you in the long-term, it’s absolutely paramount that you avoid worrying about short-term results. Short-term results (especially during the early stages) are often sporadic and inconsistent. They do not reflect the potential long-term progress you will inevitably make. As such, it’s important that you stay focused on the big picture at all times. Of course you should focus on the process steps required to get you to your goal. This is important. What’s not important are your short-term results.
Another thing you should avoid doing when it comes to planned change, is changing too quickly and/or changing too many things at once. This goes back to the principle of keeping things as simple and straightforward as possible — especially during the early stages of your change.
Throughout the early stages of your change you haven’t yet created enough momentum that will keep you going. Everything is new, and you might be doing something very radically different then what you’re used to doing. Your body and mind must learn to adapt to these abrupt changes you are forcing on yourself. It’s therefore important that you initially take things slowly and focus on one thing at a time. And of course later, when you’re feeling more comfortable you can pick things up to build greater momentum.
Finally, the greatest obstacle to making planned change work for you is your mindset. If you do not believe that you can change successfully, then you will continue to sabotage yourself throughout this process. For change to work, you must believe in yourself and in the process of change you have selected. Don’t allow pessimism to cloud your vision. If it does, then you’ll get nowhere fast. Instead see the process of change as a progressive experiment that you are working through. Yes, things will not always go as expected. However, it’s an experiment. Experiments often don’t go as expected, however the scientist doesn’t quit. He/she continues experimenting until eventually they get things right.
Treat your life as an experiment and you will reap the rewards by making powerful and positive change in the future.
Managing Planned Change
Okay, so you are wanting to change a habit, or maybe to radically transform your life in some way. Well, there are certain things that you must do to make planned change work for you. Here is a three step process that might help you:
Your first step is to clarify what it is you want to achieve by making this change. For instance you might want to change something specifically about your life circumstances, or you might want to change something internally about yourself. No matter what kind of change you would like to make, take time to visualize your desired objective and ask yourself:
What specifically would l like to change?
Why would I like to make this change?
What could be possible if I change…?
What are the potential benefits?
Consider all the possibilities of your planned change and the positive impact that this will have on your life. This will help create the motivation you need to follow through on your decision to make these changes stick.
You’re probably now very excited to make this change, however you haven’t yet considered all the obstacles and problems that you may need to face along your journey towards making this change.
Obstacles to change can come in a variety of forms. They could for instance be fears, such as the fear of failure or the fear of criticism. Obstacles could also be environmental. For instance your environment might not be congruent with the changes you want to make, and as a result will hinder your progress. Alternatively, obstacles can result from not having enough pain, motivation or reasons to change. In this case, go back to the first step of this process and find more reasons to make this change in your life.
Another obstacle to change could be a lack of knowledge. You simply don’t have enough knowledge about certain things in order to help you instigate this change successfully. This often isn’t an issue if you approach your desired change with curiosity and an open mind. Therefore take time to learn from your experience and adapt your approach as you make progress along your journey.
No matter what obstacles you face, it’s absolutely critical that you take them under consideration and ask yourself:
How could these obstacles hinder my progress?
How will I handle these obstacles?
What must I do specifically to overcome them?
What about unexpected setbacks? How will I deal with them?
The more clarity you have about the potential obstacles and about possible setbacks you might face, the more confidence you will have moving forward through this change.
The final step in this process is to develop a plan of action moving forward that will help you to successfully make the changes you would like to have in your life. To begin with, it’s important that you first gain some clarity about your process for transformation. You need to figure out what specifically you will need to transform within yourself in order to make this change possible in your life. Ask yourself:
How must I begin to think about this change?
What must I believe about this change for it to be successful?
What habits must I potentially develop to make this change work for me?
What habits would I need to eliminate to help avoid sabotaging my own progress?
Once you are familiar with the changes you need to make within yourself, now consider any changes you might need to make externally. Ask yourself:
Do I need to make any changes to my lifestyle?
Do I need to make any changes to my environment?
Do I need to make any changes to my social life? Professional life? etc…
What other changes might I need to make?
Don’t ever step on the journey of planned change unless you are 100 percent clear about all the different things you might need to change in order to attain your desired outcome. A lack of clarity will only bring about confusion, and you will be ill-prepared to deal with unexpected setbacks and/or problems that might pop up along the way.
Finally, to make this real and to help keep yourself motivated along this journey, it’s critical that you consider doing the following three things:
- Set clear deadlines for the changes that you would like to bring about in your life.
- Create a process of accountability. You might want to maybe hire an accountability partner.
- Introduce a rewards system for reaching specific targets and milestones along your journey.
Change will be much easier and a whole lot more fun to make when you set deadlines to challenge yourself, when you create accountability to focus yourself, and when you introduce a rewards system to keep yourself motivated along this journey. Yes, things will not always go to plan and the process will most likely be challenging, however through persistent effort and a positive frame-of-mind you can successfully make these changes and transform your life for the better.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Steps to Make Change Work for You @ Tiny Buddha
- 5 Ways to Anticipate the Benefit of Change @ Personal Branding Blog
- 7 Steps to Making Lasting Change @ Shake Off the Grind
- 9 Truths About Change @ The Bridge Maker
- 10 Steps to Create Lasting Change in Your Life @ Tiny Buddha
- 10 Steps to Overcoming Fear and Making True Change @ Under 30 CEO
- How to Stop Your Internal Resistance to Change @ Work Awesome
- The Power of Tiny Change @ A Daring Adventure
- Why Waiting to Change Your Life Can be Dangerous @ The Change Blog
- You Can Make a Big Life Change: Here’s How @ Wise Bread