A couple months ago I got a call from my assistant. She wanted to quit. I sat there heart beating on the phone unsure of what to do. Within two weeks my entire team was gone, and in the end it was for the best.
At the time I was scared, sad, and frustrated to have things change on me so fast. But in the end it taught me a lot and I ended up feeling grounded and complete.
The nature of the world is change and there’s little we can do to shift that.
And so we must learn to adapt.
Here’s what I’ve found to be the most valuable when things change suddenly:
Denial is the first enemy of adaptation. It’s so easy to pretend that things haven’t changed, to keep seeing what you hope was happening instead of what is happening. I’m not suggesting that you be pessimistic, optimism is fine, but you must see reality for what it is.
For me, when I get that sinking feeling in my belly that something is changing, I do my best to look at it straight on and accept what I’m seeing. When someone tells me what they want or shows me who they are and it seems in alignment, I do my best to accept it.
When my assistant told me she was miserable it was hard to hear but I accepted it. I could have dismissed it or tried to talk her out of it, but it felt true, she was being honest to me, so I looked at it head on.
By accepting what is, you can then choose where to go next.
Our habitual response to pain is to move away from it. When change brings pain or fear with it, we tend to avoid thinking about it or we numb our pain in the face of it.
You notice yourself reaching for the ice cream, the bottle of whiskey, another episode of 90 day fiance, whatever it is that will take your mind and heart off of the change.
And some of these things can actually be helpful in moderation, but we tend to numb more than we need, and stifle our ability to adapt as a result.
I won’t lie, the evening that my assistant quit I spent the whole night working (work is often where I go to numb) I ate more ice cream than normal, and I had a whiskey before bed.
But by the next day, I let myself really feel what was going on underneath. I let myself feel the anger, the sadness, the disappointment, and the fear. I was mad that she was leaving. I had asked her so many times how she was doing, if we could shift her work at all. I was sad because she had been the person I leaned on as I was going through my transition with my ex. I was disappointed in myself for not seeing the signs sooner. And I was afraid that it would all fall apart, that I was a horrible leader, and that I’d just sink into failure and oblivion.
By letting myself feel my feelings I was able to process my emotions and come to a more stable place. Instead of resisting change I became willing to look at what was next and to make the best choices for her as well as for myself.
Forgive / Get Complete –
Often when we think of forgiveness we think about the apologies we gave as children. You said you were sorry but you didn’t mean it.
And it’s easy to think of forgiveness like an obligation, but forgiveness is actually an act of liberation. It liberates you from the weight of other’s mistakes and it frees them from the toxic judgment most of us hold onto when someone hurts us. Whether they hurt us on purpose or simply by accident.
In my practice I teach a kind of forgiveness called completion, which means you don’t just ‘say’, you forgive, you really move through everything you need to get back to a place of responsibility for your life.
You express your feelings, you look at how you’ve contributed to what happened, and finally, you appreciate the person for who they are.
These three simple steps, which I do by writing letters (a process I got from my coach Hans Phillips) helps me move forward. They help me forgive. When I do this process I get back to a place where I can own what happened and be responsible for how I’m going to respond and decide what to do next.
Get Clear and Act –
Finally, you get clear on what’s next and begin to move into action.
Of course most likely you tend to get into action before getting clear. You just want to react, to do something, to respond and the result is that you respond from fear, anger, or anxiety.
Which is why slowing down and getting clear happens first.
For me, part of getting clarity is getting clear about what I’m committed to. For example, I have a commitment that every person who works for me will benefit from being part of my team. They will grow, deepen, and expand who they are. And I know if I’m living up to that commitment it means that people will leave me from time to time. My job is to accept that they want to leave and support them to move onto a job that’s better for them.
After you get clear, then you can get into action.
Sometimes that action is literally doing things that need to be done, like reviewing all the tasks your assistant does. And sometimes it means adjusting your beliefs and the way you think about the change itself.
What’s important to remember is that action that comes from acceptance, clarity, and forgiveness is the action of a true leader.
For me and my time the whole thing was a big wake up call that I needed to start from scratch. I needed to let my assistant go and I actually needed to let my whole team go.
I had built my team with my ex and it was great for our business, but it wasn’t right for the business I wanted to build.
So I let them go, they all went on to better jobs and better things, which is exactly what I want for everyone who works for me.
Adapting isn’t easy and of course, change is hard to predict, but if you follow these steps and slow down enough so you can move with purpose and clarity, you may find that on the other side of change you didn’t ask for, is growth you didn’t expect.