Ever envy someone who’s made a big change in their life? That glow. Their sense of resolve. The confidence. It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the shiny and new.
It’s all a bit deceptive – because we know change is hard. And big change? Even harder.
When change is small, it’s easier to incorporate into our lives. Like choosing salad over french fries. Simple. Painless. Makes you feel good.
When change is big, well… it’s not so easy to incorporate. Like changing your job. Like tackling a brand new diet. Like letting go of a toxic relationship. These are highly emotional endeavors and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Overwhelm often leads to backsliding – even when we know making a big change is best for us, even necessary.
Few people talk about what it feels like to change. We see the before and the after. Like the infamous weight loss photos: “Before” (sad and miserable, overweight) and “After!” (smiling, happy, YAY!). The struggle and the challenge we tuck away – like a dark secret too embarrassing to share. It’s really a shame. I think if we talked a bit more about what it actually feels like, people might not give up so easily. After all, one of the very best ways to make change is to prepare for it as much as possible. It takes out the surprises and creates realistic expectations.
Over time, I’ve picked up a few secrets about these big changes. These secrets help prepare me for any time I’m about to embark on yet another life-changer.
1. Find your team.
Before you start down a new and radical road, find the people who will unconditionally help you along the way. These are not enablers. That is, you don’t want to choose people who will give you permission to quit. These are the people who truly care about you and want you to succeed. These individuals should listen, not judge, and help you find the forest over the trees. Sometimes we don’t have the right people in our lives to fill this job. Or sometimes we need individuals with expertise to augment our team. In those cases, consider hiring professionals that align with your goals such as therapists, career and life coaches, or nutritionists.
2. Expect emotions.
Every kind of emotion. Happy, sad, anger, elation, depression. Expect them all – because big change calls for big emotions. Even though you will consciously know the change is positive, you’re still going to have some negative feelings. Often these emotions will show up when you least expect them (or want them). If you expect them, it makes it a lot easier to deal with them. Which leads me to #3…
3. Embrace each emotion.
Wallow in it a bit. On the good days, really celebrate and enjoy every ounce of excitement for your future. On the bad days, give yourself permission to stay in bed and take a “mental health” day. The bad days will come and these are the days you’ll want to give up. If you can find kindness to give yourself a little space on these days, usually the next day looks a little better. If you try to mask the emotions by denying them the time they need to “air out,” they will come back to haunt you. When they do return, they’ll become harder and harder to ignore. It’s better to simply acknowledge how you’re feeling and give yourself the grace to simply feel.
4. Talk about how you’re feeling.
It’s easy to share your good days with the world – to wax on about the 10 pounds you’ve lost or how much fun you’re having at your new job. It’s tougher to admit to your bad days. Here’s where your team comes in. When you need to talk to someone who won’t judge you for bragging about the good stuff – call on your team. When you simply need permission to stay in bed and cry? Call on your team. Your team ensures you don’t feel alone on your journey. They help keep you focused and give you compassion when you need it. Your team reinforces your pathway to success.
5. Find an activity that gives you release (and make it a non-negotiable).
For each of us, there’s some activity that gives us release. This could be anything, but it needs to consistently give you a mental lift. For me it’s working out with my trainer, Dwayne. He’s the kind of person who always has a smile, listens endlessly without judgement, and puts everything into perspective. For you, it might be meditation or yoga. It could be taking a walk with your spouse. It might be playing with your dog. Maybe it’s something lazier like taking a nap on your lunch hour at the office. If you always feel better when you do this one activity, that’s the one you want to make non-negotiable. Do it as often as you can – at least once a week. This regular release gives your soul a little break from all of the pressure of change. It helps moderate the crazy emotional swings and bring a little routine into the chaos. It’s easy to let this activity get deprioritized, but don’t fall into that trap. This one activity needs to take the very top of your priority list.
Without big risk, there’s no big reward. But it doesn’t have to be so hard. Try the tips above and let me know how it goes.
Got a few secrets of your own? Help us out and leave them in the comments below!
Ann Stanton says
When starting to feel overwhelmed by the big change, it can help me to break it down into lists of little steps. I then mark one or more do-able priorities and put the rest out of mind until the top items are done. Without that step I tend to do the lower-stress but less-needed steps and get bogged down.
Erin Anderson says
That’s great advice, Ann! Thanks for sharing with us!