What helps you expand your thinking? When adapting to change, we need to come up with thoughts and solutions that are different from ones we’ve used in the past. If not, we will just be responding in habitual ways that may not serve us now. We need to know how to access our most creative thinking. These helpful points from author M.J. Ryan, who wrote How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For are excellent at getting us to a more elevated thinking place to expand our options when weathering a storm.

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door. – Helen Keller

  1. How Does Your Self-Concept Need To Change?

Our self-concept gives us security. We know what we can count on in ourselves. It can also create limitations in our thinking and behavior that can be a problem when we’re faced with a situation in which we need to adapt. Without our knowing it, our self-concept limits out options because it puts walls around who we think we are and what we can or will do. What’s your self-concept? Pick up a pen and write down your answers to the sentence, “I am a person who…” Keep going until it becomes an effort. Then look at the qualities, habits and behaviors you’ve written down. They’re all true I’m sure. But what happens if the change you’re facing challenges some or all of them? What if you;re being asked to expand your notion of who you are in order to meet the realities of life as it is now, not how it used to be? Change always asks us to expand our idea of ourselves. You have powers beyond your idea of yourself. Now can be a good time to bring them to awareness.

  1. Seek Information Outside Your Box

To assume that what you already know and are doing are the right things to do under new circumstances can be a crucial mistake during change. One way to avoid that pitfall is to be sure to seek information outside your own box when change is upon you. Find mentors who’ve done what you’re about to do. Also, seek out what some are calling reverse mentoring, meaning young people who have totally fresh ways of approaching life and work. When you’re in the unknown, sometime experience gets in the way. If you get both perspectives, you’re getting the best of both worlds!

  1. Hedge Your Bets

Have your heard that proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” The underlying idea here is that greater stability is found when you spread the risk by having more than one option. That’s always true, but particularly in times of great turbulence when you don’t know what the future is going to bring. Having a Plan B or something to fall back on is a smart strategy. Explore in your own mind what expanding your options would mean for you?

  1. Kill Your Little Darlings

We all have beliefs we hold onto. Under stress, we tend to hold tighter, which is precisely the opposite of what we should be doing. Writer William Faulkner said that of writers “kill your little darlings”. The message is that in order for inspiration to enter, we need to make room for something better. Be willing to be influenced by others and let go of treasured beliefs. The willingness to be influenced makes us open to new information when it arrives, rather than staying loyal to our own status as “the one in charge”. Be willing to kill your little darlings.

  1. Tap Into Your Inner Resource

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. – Booker T. Washington

All of us do our best to cope with the knocks that life’s changes dishes out. Part of being human means we can’t go through life without life going through us, and as it does, it tends to rip, bend and fold. The good news is that every time we go through something challenging, we develop strengths and awareness we didn’t have before. We grow wiser and more resilient in very specific ways. These are strengths we can call upon the next time a wave knocks us down. But what if you’ve never faced a hardship before? Maybe life has been kind to you and you’ve never weathered a storm. You still have had successes – finishing school, starting a family, getting a job. Name your success to yourself and think about the qualities of heart, mind and spirit you used to create those accomplishments.

  1. Create The Necessary Reserves

Because of the way our brains are structured, it takes a lot of energy to change. Psychologist Donald Hebb  identified in the 1940’s the concept that in the brain, “cells that fire together, wire together”. As a child learning to tie your shoe, you brain cells fired in a certain sequence. As you practiced, the cells wired into a pathway that is now grooved into your brain. You don’t have to think about tying your shoes now and it hardly takes any energy.  Adapting takes more effort, we need to build up our energy reserves. Think of it as part of your job description as a change master. You simply must take care of yourself or you won’t be able to cope. To have maximum energy, we need extension and recovery strategies in all the domains of our existence: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In each of these domains, think about what you’re doing that is stretching you in that place and what you do to recover. Self-care is not optional when we’re riding the waves of change. Make sure you’re building up your reserves.

  1. Don’t Go Into The Wilderness Without Your Compass

Folks who are resilient get more in touch with their sense of purpose when faced with a change and look for ways to increase their sense of meaning in what contribute. That’s great, but what if we’re not sure what ours are or how to figure that out? I think many of us are confused by the notion of purpose. We like to think it’s a thunderbolt from the sky that sets us off on a well laid path from which we never deviate. It doesn’t work like that for most of us. The path is always a mystery for the soul that is on it. In fact, it is the searching for the path and leaning into the mystery that is ours to do. Only in hindsight, can we see the line we’ve created by our fumbling in the dark. There are ways to get closer to our sense of purpose. Here are a few elements which when taken together, become the compass we can use to find our way in the unknown:


L: What do I love?

I: What are my inner thinking talents? What are the habitual ways I approach problems?

V: What are my values? What really matters to me?

E: What environments bring out the best in me?

  1. Envision Your Next Chapter

“Pain pushes until vision pulls.” – Anonymous

When we have an unasked change, one chapter of our life comes to a close and a new one is about to begin. The uncomfortable gap in between is the transition. It doesn’t usually feel so good, but recognizing what’s going on can help alleviate a bit of the discomfort. So can viewing your life as a book with many chapters. Because we’re all living longer and change is accelerating, we will go through many chapters, each with its own dramas, excitement, requirements and difficulties. This approach to change can help us make sense of our lives as a whole, and encourage us to seek the story of our lives beneath the day-to-day surface activities. It provides the long view.

  1. Who Do You Need By Your Side?

Partnering up with other people and finding your complement is enormously helpful when in the throws of change. What kind of person or persons do you need to partner with? What kind of thinking is not habitual for you? You want someone to complement your thinking. After you’ve found someone comes the hard part – respecting and learning from the other person rather than letting them drive you crazy. Remember, you’re partners because you each offer something the other doesn’t have. Make sure you take advantage of the differences. It will give you an advantage in adapting. And don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to find the right person. Here are some tips:

* Make sure your partner is not in conflict with what you’re trying to do. For example, the change you’re going through might feel risky for your partner, so he/she might unthinkably sabotage it.

* Make sure they help you move forward, not help you stay stuck. Often we get together to complain and think that that is taking action. Complaining is okay, as long as it’s not all you do together.

* Depending on your situation and who you are, you might need different partners to provide different things – a person to provide encouragement, a person to think through options with, a person to help you stay accountable for what you said you’d do, etc.

  1. Watch The Road Not The Potholes

“The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” – Voltaire

Many of come from the school of “dwell on your worries obsessively and they won’t happen or at least they won’t be as bad when you ignore them.” Sound familiar? That thought pattern doesn’t produce anything but more anxiety, which we all can do without. When change happens we can find our mind going straight to all that we don’t want to happen, rather that what we do. Focusing on the problems or anticipated problems of change can cause us to drive right toward them. Expand your vision so that you are seeing the whole situation and focus on what you want out of the new situation, not what you don’t. Rather than concentrating on avoiding the potholes, let’s focus on the whole road so we can see where to drive.

If you’re struggling with a change that feels overwhelming to handle, don’t go it alone. Let me help you expand your options and focus on the road ahead. Call now for a free consultation.