Accept or Fight
Written By: Ibby Smith Stofer
For some the expectation of spring’s arrival is stimulating and for others it means adding outdoor chores to an already unachievable to do list. Winter doesn’t let lawns or weeds grow, but spring will bring those along with those flowers! Did you forget about baseball games and picnics? How you look at
things is truly a personal choice.
Much like the weather there are seasons in life filled with change. In our careers change seems to be clearest as well as most frequent. At each key milestone in our lives we have choices to make. This is also true in our work life. Think back to some of the most memorial events in your life. You most likely won’t remember your birth, but many remember their first days in school, their graduation, and religious events of youth. Perhaps you remember your best friends name and even their phone number. Memories are amazing.
Try to recall your first day on your first “career” job. For me that memory is comical, so I would like to share it with you.
Being from a very small town in the dairy country of upstate NY, I was ill prepared for the subway system in NYC. I first had to navigate by train from my friends parents home outside The City (as it is referred to by the locals). Check, no problems there. Grand Central Station here I am. Next I need to get to work. Down into the subway I go. I know the stop I need, this will be a piece of cake. It would have been if only I had taken the right subway, that is. I rode and tried to understand the stops, the conductor’s words and found I had absolutely no idea where I was, let alone where I needed to go. Fortunately for me, the head of the AT&T office had given me his direct phone number when we interviewed. I called and he redirected me to the right train and stop. What an embarrassment for the newly hired college graduate ready to set the world on fire.
That was only the beginning of my story of adapting to change and or challenges. Over the years I have found that I will either choose to embrace and accept change and the rewards it brings, or I will resist and fight it or try to ignore it. Both paths present challenges and are most often reflective of, as well as controlled by our emotions.
That farm girl was also adventurous. The first in the family to go to college, and then move to NYC, her next big change was to jump on a plane and move across the country to San Diego without a job in hand.
Optimism and excitement prevailed as I boarded the plane with my best friend from NYC. We were both convinced that our lives and careers would excel in a new environment. (Being single in NYC is full of challenges, but that is for another article) We both knew that finding work would not be a problem, we were both college graduates and had work history and recommendations from our former bosses.
Life has a way of changing things. Since every city had phone service from AT&T (my first employer) I believed that finding a job would be a snap. Surprise, there were no openings. Change of plans? Change of career? It seemed overwhelming. How was I going to pay the bills? How would I eat and where should I look and for what kind of job? It was as if my whole world had fallen apart.
Several studies show that successful change is a multi-part process:
Seeing what the problems are.
Feeling an urgency to solve them.
Being emotionally compelled to act.
Additionally it is known that we usually deal with change from a place of survival, or a reaction to necessity.
I most certainly met all of those criteria. My survival depended on accepting change. My willingness to change was driven by the very things we all learned in school about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I was not worried about the higher needs quite yet. I was now at the bottom of the chart.
After a few trial and error jobs I found that my career choice and my life were changing. First, I found a career role that fit like a glove where I excelled and had fun. Then I met my husband and we began a new phase in our lives. We would struggle with, loss of his job and health issues as well as raising children. Change abounded in our personal life and at the same time the changes in my work life were coming at a rapid pace. Things all seemed to be headed in the right direction and I was near the top of that pyramid.
Oops, here come those life surprises we call “change.” The company was bought out, I lost my job, and things were suddenly full of challenges that seemed overwhelming. At first I was bitter and unwilling to accept that I might need to begin to climb that pyramid again. I felt used and hurt. I lost trust in management and felt betrayed by former friends and colleagues.
Close the book, that story has ended, and you can’t change its outcome. Moving forward seemed like climbing Mount Everest. There was no sunshine, no clear path to show me the way. I read a lot about change and how to accept it and slowly realized that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to accept the hand that life had dealt me and find a way to win!
That decision renewed my energy, my hope, and my will to turn lemons into lemonade. While not my favorite beverage, with a little sugar it tastes a whole lot better than misery and anger!
My Mom had an expression that her parish priest had told her when she was struggling to move forward. It goes like this, close the book, that story has ended, and you can’t change its outcome.
I thought of that often as I redirected my career and sometimes wished I could turn back the clock to earlier times. In the end, moving forward, closing the book and looking forward has brought me new success and fulfillment in ways I had never imagined.
I am not sure that life’s ways of turning our worlds upside down won’t be in the future but for now I feel blessed and content to enjoy both my personal and professional life. I know that change is inevitable and that there rarely is a chance to remove the change and its inevitable impact. In addition, I know that when Helen Keller said: “When one door closes, another opens." But we often look so long, so regretfully upon the closed door, that we fail to see the one that is opened for us, she saw what so many of us miss and did so without her sight.
As my work and personal life continue to change, I hope I do not linger too long looking at the closed door of opportunity. Moreover, I wish the same for each of you.