Dealing with Unexpected Change

We’ve all heard the cliché that “the only constant in life is change.” Like many such maxims out there, we read them, understand them, but how often do we embrace them? Change is not something that gives us a chance to plan – real change usually strikes on some idle morning when we least expect it. Recently, I was given an unexpected opportunity to explore how much I know about change. Last week, I underwent emergency surgery for an intestinal condition I didn’t realize I had until it sent me to the hospital. Within hours of setting foot in the emergency room, I was being wheeled hurriedly into an operating room: scared, confused, uncertain, and anxious. Now, only a week later, those initial feelings of doubt have receded; replaced instead with confidence, understanding, assuredness, and optimism. And while the road to my full recovery is still months away, I realize this journey is not only about my health, it’s also about dealing with change.

As you can imagine, every aspect of my life has been touched by this unexpected experience: my wife, my kids, my job(s), my home, my family, my friendships, and so many other things that constitute “my life.” It’s also brought new things into my life like doctors, surgeons, specialists, healthcare agents, medical suppliers, and insurance representatives. And so with all this change, I got to thinking about what we can do to ready ourselves. Change, even in the most unexpected circumstances, can be a positive experience in thought as well as reality. Given that I’m at the crossroads between these two ideas, here are three thoughts that I think can be applied to any situation involving unexpected change:

Demonstrate Leadership: By becoming informed about my condition, I was able to build confidence, eliminate emotional decisions, and start to build a plan that will guide me toward my long-term recovery. In times of unexpected change, information is your best resource.

Be Resilient: One of the hardest things about change is learning to accept it.  Even in the middle of my unexpected incident, I tried to remain focused on reality, on being objective, on controlling my attitude toward the situation. I knew my role was to remain optimistic, act deliberately, and control what happened in my mind.

Communicate with Purpose: Being open and transparent with those that could help me was an absolute necessity, especially in the first few hours. How can we do this during unexpected change? By engaging different perspectives, asking questions, weighing alternatives, addressing priorities, and listening. Remember your communication approach will affect how others will react.