What happens to people going through major changes? How do you deal with change?
I’ve been thinking about this as I have friends who are in the middle of change in different ways and I’ve also thought a lot about my grandparents, who had to tackle major life changing situtations throughout their whole lives. My grandmother on my father’s side, was born a missionary’s daughter in China. She had to flee from bandits by donkey carriage and train when whe was merely eight years old. She had to leave China on a banana boat, to escape getting killed like many other foreigners at the time.
She had to grow up without her own parents for years and years, living and going to school with other missionary kids in Stockholm. She was young, and she handled those changes. And later on she made those experiences into bed time stories when her grandchildren spent the night in her care. To me, she was a hero.
She could truly handle change. In fact, she handled life.
But everyone reacts differentely, and that is also fascinating to me. There are a lot of theories about change – since many companies change their organisations and need their employees to be willing to go along with whatever they are implementing. Many stress the importance of having the employees take part in the process – to be inolved in how to create the new organisation.
In my experience, involvement is a key ingredient in any successful venture, but I also know, there are many people who don’t like involvement. People who either want to be left alone, people who want others to decide or people who are against involvement because it makes it harder for them to get their own way.
Also, I don’t think you should underestimate giving people a heads-up. When you know something is about to change, you can prepare yourself mentally. It’s not a surprise. You don’t need all the details – it’s enough to know something will happen. You have a chance to think about what you want to do in case of change – and that is no small matter.
Some things are not possible to foresee. Like a friend of mine, who had do deal with terminal illness in the family. The first shock and intense search for remedy followed by surgery and medical attendance was extremely tough. She couldn’t do anything but handle her job (merely) and try to help her family stay afloat, while researching anything that could be a possible cure. She, and her family, did everything to handle the situation. This was a case of being totally ambushed, but the fear created a strength and a will to do something. Life was at stake.
Another friend of mine had to deal with a major reorganisation at the workplace. It was such a big change that nobody could have guessed the actual outcome. At the workplace, everyone was well aware that the reorganisation would take place. They even welcomed it. But once in the midst of it, people started loosing hope, loosing vision, loosing energy to keep it up. The change was so major, that people started to loose faith in the company. They fell ill and some quit and found work elsewhere.
Both friends now talk about post traumatic stress. and struggle with getting back on their feet again. Both have changed their outlook on life. In some ways they are more present in the moment. More prone to taking spontaneous decisions that have a positive impact on family life – like going on a wonderful trip together, spending time as a family or taking chances they might not have taken before. Like many others in a similiar situation, they have seen the fragility of life and understood how to take better advantage of being here, right now.
Neither of them ever wished to go through the ordeal they have been through. But, both of them have decided on learning from the experience.
This makes me think about my grandmother again. Her situations were almost always about life and death. And they made her humble. They made her understand the beauty of simply being here. And I think that is also why she was such a friendly person. She was always nice, ready to help and very considerate of others. She new that being nice is never overestimated. Never wrong. With such little time here, being nice is pretty much what we need to work on. And if we can add some spontaneity and zest for life – no matter what change we are about to take on – we can get pretty far.
Undergoing change – in whatever way it presents itself – is an opportunity to redefine what matters most to you. And when you emerge on “the other side” you might find that you are not the same person any longer. You are a new version of yourself. Perhaps you have learned to set boundaries for others, learned to value your family more, learned to put your energy where you get something in return. And having been through life-changing experiences makes you understand why it’s so important to involve others when change is coming, and why you should always give others the chance to understand what is about to happen – so that they have the possibility to make their own informed decisions.
Nobody goes through life without experiencing major change in one way or another. It’s part of being human.
Change might not always be what we are longing for, but we are all the better for it, if we can embrace it and make it part of who we are.
And that is how my grandmother got all the way from China to Sweden…