Coincidence and Inevitability

Susanna rising from ashes

Susanna rising from ashes

Whether or not you believe that God or some universal order influences the trajectory of our lives, you have to admit that the paths that our lives take can be pretty remarkable and unexpected.

We hear stories like this all the time. ‘If I had left a moment sooner…’, ‘If I hadn’t been there…’, ‘If I hadn’t gotten sick…’ We also hear stories about how a seemingly benign life event also puts someone on a new life path or journey. Then suddenly, our lives can be completely different, whether on the outside, inside, or both.

Harold Kushner talked about the philosophy of our individual lives as threads in a tapestry, where on the backside, they seem to twist and turn seemingly without order. Only when one flips the fabric over does one see that pattern that is created.   Regardless of whether you believe there is a pattern, the tapestry analogy may reflect the course of so many of our lives. We may not ask for it. We may not want it. We may do our best to fight it. But most of the circumstances surrounding our lives are not in our control. Some events have the impact of irrevocable change to our internal and/or external world.

The role of wisdom in change is knowing when and how to fight and knowing when to accept. Self-knowledge also helps us to understand when we’re fighting change because the direction of the change is bad or because we are defending the status quo out of fear. Unfortunately, most of us must learn the hard way to differentiate and decide. In the meantime, here are my suggestions for managing change:

  • Play devil’s advocate with yourself and understand the holes and shortcomings of your beliefs about the change in your life.  Don’t go through the motions of arguing the reverse side with the conclusion forgone. Instead, really try to see it from the other side by distancing your opinion from your emotions. This exercise will help with your ability to persuade others and strategize going forward.
  • Include in the devil’s advocate exercise the belief that you have control over these events.  If you realize that you don’t have control, start processing your grief and your strategy to manage the change.
  • Be open to the opinion of others. Getting defensive will only reinforce their belief and blind you to what you may be missing. Use the truth of their argument, even if it’s only a kernel, to reconsider your thoughts and plan. Honor the notion that their perspective is their truth.  It doesn’t have to be your truth or a universal truth for you to respect their viewpoint and consider there may be some validity to their opinion.
  • Consider that change gives you a new vantage point of yourself and the world.  You may not like the view from that new perch, but a new perspective is an opportunity to learn, grow, and re-strategize. This view may allow you to launch into a new direction that you were not able to consider from your previous vantage point.
  • Be honest with yourself about the feelings this change is creating. If you’re fearful and anxious, ask yourself why.   What is the worst-case scenario (within reason)? What is the best possible outcome? Now, create that best possible outcome and embrace it for the adventure that it is. Your improved attitude will increase your odds of achieving it.
  • To reinforce your new positive attitude, consider the successful endings that have occurred with others’ stories about change. Creating successful change is about resilience. You can become more resilient, especially if you embrace change as an opportunity.

The recovering control freak and perfectionist in me still sometimes rebels against the unknown or change. Some days I feel it’s all I can do to stay present and optimistic with life’s changes. But it is well worth the effort since my precious energy can then be directed at finding the path to the best possible outcome instead of spinning my wheels. Then, I feel like the phoenix rising out of the ashes. Envision that!

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