Change is a constant but some changes are bigger and more significant than others. Whether it’s something you want such as changing career, or something you don’t want, like a work reshuffle that changes your career for you, you have what it takes to navigate it. All you need are the right tools.
Here’s my recommended packing list when going on a change journey, expected or unexpected. This approach has helped me several times, and for each item on the packing list I’ll show you how it’s worked for me personally.
Four years ago I and my husband purchased our first house, which involved a long period of stress and upheaval. In the early stages I felt overwhelmed by what I’d have to learn to make the change happen successfully and by the amount of decisions I’d have to make. I didn’t know what to expect and because of this I felt anxious, tired and I found it hard to stop thinking about the house purchase and move.
Gather your resources
I was determined to reduce my anxiety before it became unmanageable so I accepted that it would be a challenging process and prepared for it thoroughly. I spoke to friends about it and sought recommendations for a Solicitor. I did research online and made a list of things to do broken down into manageable mini goals, or milestones. This gave me an idea of what to expect, enabled me to plan ahead and I marked off each milestone as it happened.
Tip #1: Although you won’t be able to plan out every single thing that could come up you can get an idea of what to expect by drawing together all the resources available to you, from other people’s experience to your own research.
Remind yourself of your goal
We celebrated each milestone as it showed we were making progress towards our overall goal. I reminded myself of this end goal regularly: To own a beautiful home next to woodland. I found it helped me to visualise my goal so I made a virtual ideas board to save pictures of how I wanted our new home to look.
Tip #2: Celebrate every success, no matter how small, so you can feel and see your own progress. A successful goal is made up on many mini milestones, and every single one is worth marking.
Journal it out
I found journaling was a useful tool for diffusing my worries and looking ahead to a time when things would settle down. Often I found this more soothing than talking to friends or family as they had their own worries about the process and talking sometimes increased my anxiety, so it was useful to have a neutral space to simply let out my feelings.
I also focussed on gratitude in my journal, reminding myself that I’d chosen to start this process and that I was fortunate to have the savings for a deposit and to have found the house I wanted, as well has having good things in my life no matter what happened with the house.
Tip #3: Journalling gives you a safe space to empty out worries and write yourself towards solutions, and can even help you to gain fresh insights into the situation.
As a former Personal Assistant I have good organisational skills so I made use of what I knew and applied these skills to the house buying process. I controlled what I could control and this helped me to accept what I couldn’t. It also helped me to accept that there were some aspects of the change that neither I nor my husband had the expertise to deal with such as safely choosing the right mortgage, so we consulted a mortgage advisor who then worked on our behalf. This removed a great deal of pressure and made the change easier to deal with, as we then focussed on what we were equipped to deal with personally.
Tip #4: Control what you can but be realistic – you can’t control everything. Keeping your plans, progress and to do’s organised gives you a firm footing for decision making if you run into decision making.
Build on your personal values
Throughout the house purchase I and my husband worked in a way that was in line with our personal values. It was important to us to have a positive relationship with the house sellers to diffuse some of the stress for both us and them. This gave us all more control of the process as between us we were able to meet up and agree the move date and sale of furniture in the property without having to work through our Solicitors. One of the sellers also took us on a tour of the new area and this helped us to become familiar with the new location quickly and to settle in.
Tip #5: Your personal values are your inner compass during change. Honour them and honour yourself; use them to help you make decisions that are in line with who you are.
Find comforting routines
An unexpected support during the house buying process came in the form of a establishing a reassuring routine. One or two evenings a week (more on bad weeks) I watched an episode of ‘Escape To The Country’. The format of the show was exactly the same in every episode and this predictability was comforting whilst I was working on a real life situation where anything could happen.
Once we were well into the buying process me and my husband were both a little obsessed about it and it seemed to be all we had to talk about, so we decided to take up a new hobby together. We joined a beginners archery course, and one evening a week all Summer we went to classes. Having something new to do together that was challenging, fun and absolutely not house related made a huge difference.
I regularly knit and crochet and this was also a reassuring routine especially as I worked on simple, repetitive projects so that I could focus on the colours, textures and patterns in front of me, spending time in the present moment instead of worrying about the future.
Tip #6: Give yourself a break, you deserve it. Do the things that renew and refresh you to keep your energy high. This isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise – have some fun!
Expect the unexpected
At the same time as buying a house I was also experiencing change at work, having changed teams and line manager due to a departmental restructure. I found this change difficult to manage as I had no say in the decision and, working alone with no other members in the office, I lacked support, the skills I’d learnt previously had no use in my new job and I didn’t understand where my new team fit into the wider department. Every day I allowed resentful thoughts to repeat in my mind, not noticing that I was feeling increasingly bitter because of them. Despite being a smaller change I found it more stressful than buying a house.
I applied what I’d learnt from buying the house to work: I researched the situation, found that there was a need for people with my experience working as a Personal Assistant and identified the senior colleague who would be able to help me to find a new role and release me from my current one. By working on the aspects of the situation that were within my control I was able to influence the direction of the change and I found a new job a week after moving house.
Tip #7: Unexpected changes happen that you can’t prevent, but you can apply what you’ve learned from other changes you’ve been through. If you’re facing a major change reflect on how you’ve handled changes before, what worked and what didn’t work. This is another great resource to gather about you.
Change is, or course, inevitable. Without it we’d stand still and stagnate, with it we grow. Of course it doesn’t feel that way at the time! But there are ways to ride it out without being ground down; in fact you can come out the other side stronger and more confident in your ability to handle challenges.