By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.
When a crisis hits – the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one – it throws you into a complete tailspin. Suddenly your world is no longer safe and secure. What can you do to pick up the pieces and take the first steps toward living a full life again?
Lisa was divorced when her son was still in grade school. Soon after, she lost her job in the wake of massive lay offs. Finding herself at a crossroads, she decided to take a chance and follow the passion that she had dreamed about for years – to write a book. “Going forward, I feel empowered and alive. After years of working in the support of others, I am now the artist. It is a truly wondrous experience as I move into the next phase of my life.”
You too can respond to a dramatic change by tapping into more optimistic thoughts and seeing the situation as a challenge. Create an opportunity to focus your energies and pursue your own dream. Change the negatives to positives as you choose your path. You may find that it is hard to get started and even more difficult to keep the forward momentum going. If you are finding yourself stalled and begin questioning your abilities to cope, implement these five important steps as you begin your journey.
1. Look back over your life and review how you have dealt with other major changes. What have you learned from your life experiences? As philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Recall what worked and employ the most effective coping strategies once again. Discard what didn’t.
2. Assess your strengths and how you have used them in particular situations before. Has your curiosity or love of learning encouraged you to gather information from the Internet, books or seminars in order to facilitate your decision making? Whereas some strengths may come naturally to you, others may have to be developed through hard work. Evaluate how you can build on your assets now.
3. Consider what will help you let go of negative thoughts and preconceived notions of failure. Are you holding on to unrealistic expectations, an unfounded criterion of perfection, an intolerance of anything less than total success? Allow your ideas to run wild as you open yourself up to new attitudes. Use your power to turn your beliefs, step by step, into positive “what ifs.”
4. Brainstorm with a friend to clarify what kinds of resources you can pursue to help you through this process. Support can come from many directions –personal relationships, coaches or therapists; or from financial assistance, outside validation and endorsement. Use whatever support is available to aid and encourage you.
5. Let your creativity flourish so that you see yourself from a new perspective. Here, the initial goal is to uncover the courage to begin the process. Once you start, your experience will give you the incentive to continue. Lisa found that “I need much less than I thought to live comfortably. It’s amazing how much more we spent before – and we had so little to show for it. I’m now feeling full in a different way. I know what I want and I will work to get it.”
When prospects seem bleak, these tips can stimulate you toward achieving your goals. Trust yourself and your own wisdom as you begin to integrate your changes and create a new and positive direction. You will find the inspiration that you need to make this the best time of life.
© Her Mentor Center, 2007
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are founders of www.HermentorCenter.com, a website dedicated to the Sandwich Generation, and blog at www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Boomer women and their family relationships and they publish a free newsletter, through their website. As psychotherapists, they have a combined 40 years of private practice experience.
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