Bracing for Change: 3 Tips on How to Prepare for Your Next Phase

A while ago, I got to talk to a long-time friend who really is one of those awe-inspiring women. A high flying executive, and mom of two who ferries her kids between classes and admittedly "could write an assessment book" as she personally oversees their academic work, beautiful and elegant, well-spoken, an entrepreneur, a musician, a dancer, a youth activist. The list goes on...

Having known one another since we were 15, we immediately launched into our history and then just as promptly, into our future: as 40-somethings, we are each at the cusp of our 'second half'. Being industry agnostic and a portfolio careerist, flux is normal for me. However for my friend, even with her multiple hats and successes, she said that she recognised the need to start planning her second half now, instead of letting it surprise her in four to five years time when her kids have left the nest.

This led to me thinking about the various conversations I've had lately with my coaching clients and other women facing inevitable change: a 30-something powerhouse switching from corporate to a startup; a 40-something educator getting back into a business after staying at home for 14 years; a high flying exec wanting to leapfrog into a C-level role; long-serving employees now facing retrenchment and wondering how to navigate this new phase after dedicating decades to a company, industry or role.

In these conversations, one thing that came to mind is that the solution was always about THEM. Not in a blame-y sort of way. What I mean is that moving forward in those situations came down to their world view, how they created meanings about their roles or their experience, or how they interpreted their environment and the people around them. It was never about the situations themselves.

So here are the three Rs to make the most out of change:

1. Reflect

Take a long, hard look at yourself and ask difficult questions: how did I get here? Do I want to be here? Now that I'm here, what next right step should I take?

Once you know who you really are and what you stand for, answers come more easily. Not that it's ever easy: that's too simplistic a view, but it gets one of the biggest hurdles out of the way. You. Your mental blocks. Your definition of yourself. The meaning that's attached to your job or life choices.

2. Re-frame

When faced with change, especially unexpected change, self-doubt, frustration, disappointment and other yucky emotions can surface.

Don't push them away and pretend they don't exist. They darn-well do. The trick here is to figure out why they surface. What's the underlying trigger? Once you figure that out, then it needs to get re-framed in a way that serves you.

For example, if you've just moved from a stable corporate job with a large MNC to a startup, chances are, you'll be facing a whole host of challenges that you'd have been sheltered from in corporate life, e.g. being tasked to do something that's way below your level of experience. Regularly, not just once. This is, of course, extremely frustrating. However, if you re-frame this as learning minute details of how a business is built, and relate that to your objective of joining a start up in the first place, then it can make those OMG moments that much easier to work through.

I'm not saying, by any means, that you need to put up with stuff that you hate if there are no other redeeming reasons to stick it out. However, if you are in that new situation, there has to be a reason or a lesson involved. You will need some creativity (and lots of deep breathing) to reframe your experience to make sense of it and see it from that light.

3. Reboot

So, in order to get on with it, while you're in it, you need to reboot. Yes, change has happened. No, you can't go back and make a different decision but you're not tied to this decision either! So, each change is an opportunity for a fresh start and to let go of past expectations.

One suggestion is to review, take stock of, and renew your personal mission statement. What drives you? What calls to you? What do you want to learn? How do you want to be in this next stage of your life or career?

Is change scary? Yes. But it is also exciting. Is your next step certain? No. But that also means it's full of endless possibilities. Are the 3Rs necessary? Only you can answer that!  

This post was originally published on Avalyn's blog: