Yet for most of us, the concept of change is frightening, because it means nothing stays the same. For example, five minutes ago—outside my window—the sun was out, layering warmth and light across my backyard. But now there’s cloud cover, dimming the brightness and casting a dreary grey palette on the lawn. And no doubt in a few minutes, the view will change again, perhaps offering just enough light to form shadows under the trees.
As I watch the transforming landscape outside—variations I acknowledge and accept every day—I’m reminded these changes happen with or without my permission. Fortunately, because today’s weather is mild, I’m enjoying the spontaneous complexity of nature.
But I know it won’t always be this pleasant, especially when summer storms head my way.
The truth is, whether we like it or not, change is the nature of our reality—every second, every moment, every day. And while our attitude and perspective may be temporarily influenced by these minor variations, we’re usually not troubled or anxious about the unpredictability of life. The majority of us intuitively roll with it, knowing the result will usually be acceptable, or at least tolerable.
Many of the influences on our lives originate from our personal desire to change something—direct and purposeful adjustments in behavior, food choices, exercise routines, hair color, or shade of lipstick. Occasionally, our intentions extend beyond simple variation, and we attempt to transform our living arrangements, careers, and life partners.
The result? Alterations to our daily routine. We typically call them “changes.” But perhaps, they’re really experiments—curiosities we have a desire to explore, our efforts often driven by some real or imagined benefit. Hoping to produce “acceptable change,” we take control of the process and outcome by evaluating our current situation and circumstances and making a personal decision. And in the course of formulating a new direction, we usually ask ourselves a few questions. For example:
- Which diet plan should I try?
- What model car will give me the best warranty and fit within my budget?
- Should I try a shorter hairstyle — one with bangs?
- How will I tell my boyfriend we’re finished?
The answers allow us to determine whether we keep the status quo, or move forward with a strategic plan.
But what can we do when unexpected, life-changing events hit us like a hammer? Arriving without notice or fanfare, these unwelcome intruders poke at our comfort zone with disturbing and unreasonable demands. It might come in the form of a job layoff, a troubling medical diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, or the end of a relationship.
Here’s the good news: By learning how to manage the small challenges we encounter in our lives, we’re much more likely to be able to handle the big ones. And we’ll be better prepared—equipped with a positive mindset—to successfully handle the unnerving disruptions that occur unannounced.
When suddenly faced with an unforeseen problem or decision, it’s important to objectively evaluate the situation to determine the best possible options and the probable outcome of each one. As a suggestion, rather than wondering why something has happened—resulting in a loop of self-pity and blame—try asking yourself a few targeted questions to gain a clearer perspective.
In the process, you may discover your true feelings about the situation are much different from your initial reaction and come to the conclusion you have the ability to resolve things in a positive way.
- What if the event did or didn’t happen? How would that affect the outcome—either way?
- Has this — or something similar to this — happened before? How did I respond? What do I wish I had done differently? How will that influence what I do this time?
- Who can I reach out to for advice—someone who knows more about this issue than I do—and what can they teach me?
- What if I don’t do anything? How will I feel if I don’t try?
- Can I accept the fact that outside forces and influences are in play, and the outcome may not be what I expect?
Change is a continuous thread running through every moment of our lives. Accepting it as a tangible and on-going part of reality strengthens our confidence and courage, allowing us to make better decisions.
Our first choice? To either ignore reality, wearing blinders and existing in doubt and fear. Or we can accept life’s challenges—and all the possibilities it offers.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu