How to Survive and Thrive with Big Change

A couple of weeks ago, a little tree and a little cactus made me cry.

I’ll explain . . .

During the first few years of running my own business, I worked pretty much anywhere people would let me. I started out in a closet at a church, then moved up to a table in the lobby of a marketing agency.

Before long, the business had grown to the point where I needed to hire some help. I hired my first full-time employee, and rented a 100-square-foot office.

This is where those little plants come in.

My employee and I made a trip to IKEA to pick up our office furniture, and while there, I bought a little tree and a little cactus. I put them in red planters and set them on a window ledge in the office.

We moved offices three times, and each time, my little tree and little cactus came along.

Then a few months ago, everything started changing.

I sold my consulting business Out:think, and once again struck out on my own.

I moved out of my office space and into a spare bedroom at my house, bringing my little tree and cactus along.

Then my wife and I sold our house in Lynchburg, Virginia—where she had lived her whole life and where I’d lived since I was 18—and moved to Tennessee.

And somewhere along the way during that big move, I lost my little tree and my little cactus.

It surprised me how much it affect to lose them.

I realized that those little plants had been a comforting presence for me over the years.

Through all of the changes and growth, and the excruciating parts of growing my business and writing career, those plants were about the only thing that seemed to stay steady.

And now they’re gone.

I’m not one to constantly look for signs from the universe, but that seemed poetic to me.

New business.

New home.

New city.

New friends.

New office.

It’s definitely a new chapter in my life. And it’s been hard to find myself again.

This is the first thing I’ve written in over a month. I’ve sat down to write, but the words wouldn’t come.

My schedule was all out of whack. I didn’t have a writing spot yet. We were living out of boxes.

Even though I was excited about the move, it was still hard to do.

Our new housing wasn’t quite what we’d expected.

The weather kept breaking 100-freaking-degrees Fahrenheit!

And in the midst of all that, I realized the following . . .

2 Reasons Change is Always Hard

1. Everything is new.

Our restaurants, grocery stores, friends, gym—everything. It’s all new.

Which is scary, and requires a lot of mental effort.

If we want Mexican food, we have to think about where to go instead of our regular place.

I have to learn all the new names, coaches, and systems at my new CrossFit gym.

And my in-laws are no longer five miles away when we need someone to babysit our two boys.

When everything is new, it’s exhausting to do even normal, everyday things, and it’s scary to constantly be stepping into an environment you’re not familiar with.

2. Something always goes wrong.

When we showed up to move into our new townhouse, it was missing a third of the space I’d expected to have.

We got rid of one of our cars before moving, and a few days after getting here our remaining vehicle broke down.

When you start stepping into change, you don’t know how to do things.

You make mistakes, and things get messed up.

You end up doing everything twice to get it right. Which drives me insane.

But . . . it’s part of change. And change means something is going to go wrong.

So when your life gets upheaved, whether by your own choice or by things outside of your control, what can you do to find yourself and keep going?

4 Ways to Find Your New Normal

1. Get very clear on your priorities.

My wife and I moved to Tennessee specifically to work with a local nonprofit.

Of course there’s plenty of other things to do in a new town. Meet people, try out the new parks and restaurants, get the kids into new sports or music programs.

However, jumping into all that at once would be a mistake.

Instead, we immediately stepped into the nonprofit and started working, while I created a new work area and a schedule to get my writing done.

I don’t know what kind of change you’re facing right now, but it’s probably messed with your priorities.

Maybe your elderly parent is sick, and you have to care for them now.

Maybe you just had a new baby, and life is a crazy whirlwind.

Maybe your new job is killing you.

Whatever it is, before you jump into anything, make sure your priorities are set in stone. Know what’s most important in your day, and why.

2. Create a new schedule.

As quickly as possible, create a new schedule for your writing and your everyday life.

Just like when you create a new budget, you’ll get it wrong the first time and have to adjust.

But making a plan for your time is the first step towards getting things in order.

3. Lean into it.

I’ve been surprised at how quickly we’ve settled into the newness of everything. And I think the reason for that is that we had decided not to look back.

The change is here. We’ve moved, and this is our life now.

Instead of missing what’s old, the question is: How can we create joy in what’s new?

4. Create your new home.

This past weekend, my wife and I stopped at an IKEA while traveling over the holiday.

While we were there, I picked up a new little tree and a new little cactus.

They are now on my desk in my new office, in the basement of the nonprofit we’re working with.


Being Sensible

Change is hard. But even though it’s never easy, embrace what’s coming, and make it yours.

Charles Handy, a well-known Irish author and philosopher, once said in an interview, “Sensible people reinvent themselves every ten years.”

Ten years into my entrepreneurial life, I’ve pulled up stakes on my home and career and started over in a new place.

I can’t say yet exactly how all these major changes will turn out for us, but I am confident they’ll turn out well.

I don’t know what kind of change you’re experiencing, or what might be right around the corner for you, but my advice is this:

Don’t dig your heels in and resist what’s happening.

Don’t fight it.

Open your arms wide to what’s next, and make it your own.

It’s the only sensible thing to do.

What about you?

I know this is scratching the surface on the wisdom this community has for experiencing change.

Can you share your wisdom on thriving in change with me and the rest of us?

Two ways to do this:

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