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5 tips to not freak out at unexpected life events

Here’s the thing about change: It’s happening every day whether you direct that change or not. Some changes are good. Others not so much. The point is it’s not really a choice. Nobody gets a pass from having to deal with transitions and job losses, death and divorce.

Whenever I’ve made big changes in my life that I chose and initiated, I’ve felt empowered and alive. But when things happen to you that you didn’t particularly want or even see coming, it’s terrifying and involves some period of grief. It’s what you do after that that matters most. Here are five tips to manage and ride the bull of change.

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1. Allow change to happen

After a reasonable period of grief, anger or shock, try to stop agitating or fighting for things to stay the way they were. Accept that life is dealing you a new hand. There’s goodness in it, so find the goodness, and accept what is. Stop resisting and wishing things were different — not because you don’t wish that but because you’re not helping yourself by doing so. Stay focused on the present situation, and find ways to dive in and swim with the current. You’ll feel better.

2. Find joy

Make a list of as many things you can think of that make you happy: dancing, movies, massages, reading or coffee with friends. Make the list as long as you like. Keep the list posted by your bed, and make sure you are making time for at least one of those things every week. That will keep you sane. You deserve happiness, and only you can prioritize and make these little rewards part of your weekly to-do list.

3. Accept failure as a necessary part of life

It helps to remember we will all fail — some of us more than others. If you don’t fail, you didn’t take enough risks, and if you don’t take risks, you’ll never achieve anything close to your dreams — or anything good, period. Failure is just the entry fee to a more lived life.

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4. Regroup and check in

Self-awareness is called for when you’re faced with change. Make lists.

  • What do I want the next five years to look like?
  • What do I definitely not want ever again?
  • What’s missing?
  • What do I need more of in my life?
  • What do I want less of?
  • Is there a way to move the ship (of your life) in another direction? (Dream big at this point.)
  • What’s the risk?
  • What will it cost?
  • Is now the time?

It will feel scary, and it will feel hard. But imagine how great it will be in five years if you can pull it off.

5. Listen to your intuition

There are just a few times in your life when your soul talks to you. It takes a certain kind of quiet listening to hear the gentle drumbeat of its wisdom. I feel it as a knowing, and it doesn’t come from a logical or thinking place. Sometimes it is inconvenient or goes against what you think you want, but in my own experience, this voice is never wrong. When you hear the call — to another person, to a type of work or to start a business, to the true direction of your life — follow your gut. It will never steer you off course. It’s probably pushing you toward your course.

Personal reinvention is hard, especially when it’s forced on you. I find it helps to remember that transitions are a part of life. We will experience many of them in our lifetimes. The best ones are the ones you initiate yourself, and if you didn’t initiate them, the best thing you can do is first accept and then embrace them.

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Jane Stein is the founder of Your Franchise Is Waiting, a consultancy firm for men and women exploring franchising as an alternative career path.

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