Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reinventing Ourselves

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Last week I had a chance to visit with my good high school friend, Sandi, and her husband, Terry Bunker. Since they live in Las Vegas, and I live in Canada, it's a treat to manage a visit once a year.

Terry and Sandi spent their working years as a marriage and family therapist (Terry) and an ESL teacher (Sandi). They combined those careers with raising six children and, somehow, maintaining several investment properties. On the eve of retirement, my friends found themselves in a new and challenging position -- that of accepting responsibility for raising four of their young grandchildren.

This has meant starting up again in the career department...and the personal energy department and the thoughts-about-their-future department. It has meant realigning their dreams with their reality. It has meant feeling at peace about this new direction of their lives, despite the challenges. Maybe because of the challenges. I respect my friends for taking this step with grace and clarity. I admire their positive outlook and the calm, loving care that is evidenced in these good natured children.

Sandi and Terry are reinventing themselves. Did they plan to? No. Are they finding benefits and blessings in their new life? Yes. And that is the point of my musings today.

It's so common for our plans to go awry -- job changes, having to move, death of a loved one, changing relationships, illness or injury, and more.

The unexpected happens because we can't predict everything around us; because we don't plan enough or we plan too much; because we change our minds; because we can't control other people; etc. But the unexpected parts of change do not have to be a problem or a struggle. Most of us need time (and maybe help) to adjust; that's human. But we can choose how we view change. We can choose to use it as a chance to reinvent ourselves.

My friends are doing this. I have done this. You probably have, too. Instead of focussing only on the losses that accompany change, we can focus on the gains. Think of it as a three-part process: 1) Evaluate the Change & the Losses  2) Focus on the Gains  3) Do Whatever You Can to Move Forward.

To use this process, ask yourself a few questions and answer them as thoroughly and deeply as you can. Writing and talking about the questions and your answers can help.

Evaluate the Change & the Losses
  • What is the change that has happened to me?
  • What will now be different as a result of the change?
  • What don't I like about the change/what do I lose because of it?
  • What could I do to accept the change and losses?
  • What gains can I see as a result of the change?

Focus on the Gains
  • What are all the gains I see now?
  • How do I feel about these gains?
  • What can I do to make the most of each gain?

Do Whatever You Can to Move Forward
  • Can I feel and express gratitude for what I had before the change?
  • Can I feel and express gratitude, even a tiny bit, for the change and for the gains I now see?
  • What actions will I take to make the most of each gain?

Change permeates life. We don't always anticipate or like those changes, but it is certainly in our power to pick ourselves up and move forward. So go ahead. Reinvent yourself, whether you consciously decide to make the change or it jumps up and bites you in the rear end.

Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.

                            --Edwin Markham, 1852-1940

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