Why Preparing Helps Navigate Change

Aug 28, 2019

After astronauts on Apollo 11 touched down on Earth, life became harder. While they were received with celebrity status, the fame that came with the mission made their personal lives challenging. Since July there have been several commemorations on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

The astronauts were superbly trained for the takeoff, the mission and the whopping splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. But no one prepared them for the transition back to civilian life post-space. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins would later say the toughest part of Apollo 11 was the transition back to civilian life that came with stardom and the nation’s collective fascination with them.

Buzz Aldrin suffered through two divorces, depression, alcohol addiction and financial woes. Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong fled the spotlight as much as they could and had their personal challenges that included Armstrong’s very publicized divorce. Collins recently admitted the change from being pilots to heroes became too much.

Change is hard to navigate because it destroys our identity and what we’ve held on to. We’ve allowed who we are to be defined by what we do, our goals, what the world thinks of us, what relationships we have, how much money we make—there are so many attachments to our identity!

No wonder astronauts, athletes and those of us who’ve spent years tied to an identity feel lost once change appears and circumstances force us to question who we think we are.

You may not be training for a space mission or the Olympics but you know what being caught in the paralyzing moment of change is like. Suddenly, you’re not someone’s spouse; someone’s daughter, someone’s love. Suddenly, you’re the head of a department, the tired parent of twins, a business owner. Suddenly, the beliefs tied to your old identity are shattered.  

Divorces, deaths, marriages, births, career changes and so on. Change is constant and limits our control because it pushes us into a transition we may not have bargained for. When change happens—and it will continue happening— how do we reconcile our identity? Who do we become? And how the heck do we get through it?!?

During our nearly 30 years of training clients, Productive Learning facilitators know that transitions are blessings because if approached with awareness, transitions show us who we are at our core. We discover our vision, what sets us apart, what our strengths are and we’re able to make the trek of pain into an extraordinary journey.

Maybe you’ve always worked and had a social life centered around your kids, but now they’re gone and it’s time to figure out who you are. Maybe you’re out of a relationship or divorce and re-discovering things that make you happy. Maybe you’ve finished your doctorate but have a lingering emptiness that asks, “now what?”

We think this is the perfect time for creating an extraordinary life!

Our workshop Navigating Change helps you build guideposts and gives you tools that get you through change. Trainers steer you into a mindset where fears, worries and resistance become tools of empowerment. As you actively engage with others you discover your transition path and tap into your resilience. Change can be the best gift you receive when you’re willing to unlock its messages during the journey of transition.

In life, we can hold on tightly while letting go lightly. We can hold to relationships and ourselves with the certainty of love and goodness of people, while knowing that everything is in transition. To use change as growth you have to straddle the paradox of being attached and detached at same time. You can go to the moon, win gold medals, change careers, spouses, get through mishaps and tragedies with peace.

Over the year we’ve been writing love letters to our emotions. Change elicits many deep emotions so this month, we write a love letter to change:

Dear Change,

It’s time I stop hanging on to the notion I can stop you from happening or that I have absolute control of life’s transitions.

There’s so much uncertainty with you that I’m easily paralyzed with fear and anxiety and that means resistance quickly shows up. You’re a departure from what I’ve known, including my identity.

When you arrive, everything begins coloring itself in different hues and as much as I hate it, a new normal sets in. The pain of what’s lost is too real and the reality of not knowing what’s to come is too frightening. I begin wondering if I can get through life’s transitions or if I’m capable of not failing and then I try controlling situations and people.

Since you’re a constant I can’t control or stop you from appearing, I have to change my mindset about change.I’ve decided to welcome you in. In the past I can pinpoint moments where change brought me to a better place, even after I endured pain. Like the time I got dumped but it helped me find my life partner; the time I got fired and launched my own business; the time my dad died and I backpacked Africa in his memory… I don’t want to wait years before I realize change was good for me.