I often wonder what it would be like to come into a situation without all the biases, prior experiences, and let’s face it, baggage that I carry along with me. I joined a church a few years ago and one of the first series I attended was about the baggage that we bring to our relationships, including our families, friends and work. As I spent time unpacking some of that baggage to understand its impact on those areas of my life, I also came to understand that what’s wonderful is that all of this stuff that comes along with us is what makes us unique, each with our own prism of this world and how we operate within it. This holds true for how we view change too.
Consider two friends who work for the same company. Both employees are highly skilled, well respected, and have long tenure with the company, and both lost their jobs as part of changes in the company. One spent a several months in grief and anger over the loss. The other launched a successful consulting business almost immediately. What creates the prism of one person’s lens to bend toward anger and self-pity and another’s to propel forward? I have found that it can and often is how we view the change using the prism filled with the views of our past. Given that change is a fact of life, we can often find ourselves responding to change in consistent ways no matter how impactful the change.
As many did, in 2008 I witnessed a lot of job loss, and our family was no different when my husband lost his job due to downsizing. We were grateful that I continued to work, and were able to manage our finances and make an investment to start a small business that my husband now runs. We were excited in this next step of our adventure at first. Then, I spent the first two years we were in business worried about every penny we spent and/or made. This was one of the areas that I began unpacking some baggage, because although we were not destitute I was acting as if we were. Given the recession at the time being frugal was reasonable, but the stress my reaction was creating, in my day to day world, and my marriage, was painful. Nothing was good enough for me. Why couldn’t I embrace this? It was years before I was equating the original loss of my husband’s job, and my fear of loss in general, to a time in my childhood when we were left without much and poor. My prism was seeing the new business venture as being poor and scratching to make it. And my fear of loss I began to realize had been something I’ve given many adventures over to in my life.
So how do can we use this prism to embrace change? It’s easy to consider the obvious… by seeing the opportunity in everything. To do this takes practice. Practice in being present and acknowledging what your prism is telling you, and being aware of your reaction to it. When you feel yourself reacting, notice how you’re feeling. Are you excited and optimistic about what’s coming? Or are you fearful? Are you feeling both? Give yourself the gift of time to observe what you’re feeling, acknowledge it, sit with it. Ask yourself where you’ve been through a transition, and succeeded in the past? What did you bring to it and how can you use what you learned in that experience? In my case, I considered the success that both my husband and I had in our respective careers, that we were both competent smart people, and that as a strong team, were not going to let each other down. As I embraced that, I began to let go and make peace in order to see the opportunities right in front of us.
I hear my fears every day, and I get to choose to thank them for what they’ve taught me and move through them, or spend time acknowledging them when I struggle to let go. It takes practice. Being present. Every day. Remember, your prism makes you unique and wonderful. You’ve got this!