My daughters both started new, bigger schools last week. The change was anticipated throughout the summer holidays in a state of what came to be christened ‘nervecitement’, as they both clung to the familiarity of what they already knew yet were simultaneously itching to explore the new pathways opening for them.
I’ve talked about changes, comfort zones and opening new doors several times in this blog already but, as the September air is always so heavy with held breath and fresh horizons, I can’t resist coming back to the subject again. The lure of the new start is seductive and also redemptive. Whether it’s a new job, a new school or just a new homework diary, you can finally screw up those old ‘to-do’ lists that had that persistent lurking item you never got round to and move on.
Sometimes though, new starts are painful because of the circumstances from which they are born. Forced new starts might be due to the shock of a partner’s infidelity that heralds a split for example or perhaps being made redundant, prompting a review of career. Bumpy transitions can also be painful – a mistake made early in a new job or encountering unfriendly neighbours when you have just moved can knock your confidence at a vulnerable time.
Because new starts, whatever their cause, can and do render us as vulnerable and disorientated as a four year old on the first day of school. The separation pain that four year old feels from everything that was familiar and the excitement of discovery of new friends, new experiences and new boundaries are the same for adults standing on the threshold of a new adventure.
But we adults have an advantage. We have been in that four year old’s position many times before, in many different guises. The scary feeling is familiar to us and, though we may still strive to avoid it where possible, we know that we can get through it and grow from it. We may have horror stories of nightmare landlords or bullies at work, but we’re still here, we learned from it and lots of positive things happened as result that might not have done otherwise. We know we can rely on our adrenal ‘nervecitement’ to get us through the initial stage as we feel our way into our new physical or emotional surroundings, but what then? Then it’s time to change focus.
Stepping out into the new is always daunting and it often makes us think in the short-term. We focus on details and arrangements to manage the transition, and these are things that need to be addressed. However, big changes can seem overwhelming from this angle and what’s needed is to step back and refocus on a different perspective – the big picture.
If you find yourself facing a change in your life that you are nervous about, here are six ways to help you focus on the big picture:
- Make a list of the big changes you have made in your life before now. How did you feel before them? What happened as a result? (For example, I moved to France to teach English and ended up meeting my husband-to-be!). Have fun imagining some of the positive knock-on effects of the change you’re currently facing.
- Project yourself forward 5, 10 or 20 years after the change. How will your life be different? Now imagine that you don’t make the change and do the same thing.
- Ask yourself, ultimately, why are you making this change? If the change was thrust upon you, how can you empower yourself in the situation?
- Visualise yourself, confident and happy having made the change. Get the image really clear in your head – notice your posture, what you are saying, what you are doing and what you are wearing. When you have the picture very strongly, step into it so that you are looking through the confident, happy you’s eyes. How are you feeling? Do this for a few minutes every day.
- Identify your support group – the friends, family and useful contacts that you will need on your journey. Where appropriate, tell them about your big picture and ask them to remind you of it when they see you doubting yourself.
- Take some time out daily for meditation or other connection practice. It will make a huge difference.
Switching your focus to the big picture regularly will help you to navigate your way through overwhelm. It’s not a perspective that is easy (or desirable) to stay in, as you will need to attend to practical details and take each day at a time, but think of it like raising your eyes from the map to look at the view once in a while.
Are you facing a nerveciting change? Want some help on your journey? Get in touch – I’d love to be there for you. There’s 20% off coaching sessions in September and October for subscribers to my weekly newsletter too, so make sure you sign up today if you haven’t already.
Got a story about a change you have made and how you dealt with it or its unexpected consequences? Do spill the beans in a comment!