REFLECTION: Last week marked a significant change in my extended family, as my parents moved from their home on the farm into a brand new residence in Saskatoon. My Dad was born in that farmhouse 85 years ago. He lived and worked there for most of his life. My Mom joined him on the farm when they married 60 years ago.
Together they raised a family of six girls, who eventually brought home husbands, grandchildren and more recently great-grandchildren. This last December, 29 of us gathered in that small one-bathroom farm house – all very much aware of the significance of one more Christmas at the farm. The roots run deep and the memories run wide.
The relocation was in the works for a few months. That time was filled with plenty of planning, choosing and deciding. Recent weeks were especially rich in emotion – as years of memorabilia was sifted and sorted – and everyone faced the now near and new realities of a change of place.
We’re definitely not alone in facing change. Every single one of you is dealing with or has dealt with changes of one kind or another – jobs, relationships, living situations, and more. Some changes come by choice – others by chance. In every program I facilitate on stress and wellness, participants pinpoint change as one of the main culprits that throws their world out of whack and their lives off balance.
And so, as a student of the world, I paid close attention to how things unfolded in this recent family change. I was looking for lessons I could harvest and pass along that might help ease some of the pressures of change in your world.
ACTION: Based on our recent adventure, here are some of my first hand observations and suggestions about making change less stressful.
Communication is key. About the time you realize you’re tired of giving report on yet another development, everyone involved is just starting to feel like they finally have a grip on what’s happening. Don’t stop sharing information too soon.
Not everyone is good at everything. Put each person’s best skills to work to make the process of change that much easier for all. My sister, the banker, has a stellar grasp on things financial. She understands the processes involved in real estate transfers, and is able to translate Fiscalese into everyday English. Another sister holds a Black Belt in Bargain Hunting. She was ideally suited to scouring the shops for window coverings and furnishings.
An overall plan with intermediate milestones keeps everything from crashing down on your head at once. It’s way too easy in a large change project to get swamped by the details; yet not all of them need to be addressed at once. Week by week, and task by task is the smoother road to sanity. Narrow the focus whenever possible. It will lighten your near-term load.
Setbacks and U-turns can end up in improvements over the original plan. Unexpectedly frigid temperatures (minus 46 windchill) turned a one day load, move and unload into a two day venture. In the end, the two day approach was a much better option. After the farmhouse was cleared out on Day One, everybody had a good night’s rest before having to deal the next day with unloading at the new place.
When those you contract to help with the mechanics of a change are easy going and light of heart themselves – up for a joke here and a bit of playfulness there – everybody relaxes and the emotional stress and physical strain are that much lighter. When possible, choose helpers, not just based on price and service, but on attitude as well.
You never know what is going to trigger an emotional reaction. Could be a photo, a small change in plans, or a mis-spoken word. The strength of a reaction may have nothing to do with the precipitating event. It’s just the final straw of the day or the week. Try not to over-react or take unexpected emotional outbursts personally. A little clearing of the air – a mental reset and emotional release – can be a very good thing.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.” – Ashleigh Brilliant
“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.” – Kurt Lewin
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Check out this article: Ten Tips On Managing Change with greater peace and confidence.
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message, Aversion To Stillness, Pause reader VM writes: Your comments reminded me of a situation I encountered at a conference. During one of the breaks I met up with a former colleague. We were in the midst of a good conversation when she was texted. She immediately engaged in a text exchange totally disregarding me. I watched in amazement as she had an animated text exchange (she was smiling from ear to ear). I decided that there was no point in me remaining so I left to hopefully meet up with someone who liked to talk live! What was also amazing about this is that I do not think she realized I had left and did not seek me out to continue our conversation. Very strange experience but unfortunately becoming the norm.