Change is always in the air at this time of year, but I have been feeling there is much more of it as we look forward to the fall of 2014 than ever before in my life. And it’s not just me. I see it all around me, from a friend whose first child is entering college, to a neighbor whose Raleigh-based son is moving to San Francisco, to a family member who is retiring, to my 89 year-old uncle getting remarried, to new leadership at professional and volunteer organizations I’m involved with, to the move of my darling grown nephew from Fort Meyers Florida (here he and his wife and daughter have lived for nine years) back to Chapel Hill, I’m seeing it in every part of my life.
Events of this summer have given me a chance to really slow down. While out on medical leave and recovering from surgery, I’ve had time to think more slowly and deliberately about so many things. What a gift! In the nonprofit world, we tend to be so driven, so committed and so hard on ourselves. Because we are always looking to the long-term goal and, possibly, how far short our organizations fall, we may not notice change until it upon us and when we do become aware of it, we can panic.
While I pondered in July and August, I spent a lot of that brain-time on the issue of change. And as with anything in life, we can’t control it. We can only control how we react to it. Here are my conclusions:
1. We don’t control events, but they don’t have to control us. Change is going to come whether we are ready or not. Learning not to be surprised or shaken by change is not so easy for most of us human beings, but it’s a skill and attitude worth cultivating.
2. Whether happy or sad, changes offer the opportunity for gaining wisdom. I know talking about “wisdom” makes me sound old, but learning important lessons from unexpected events can offer a powerful opportunity for new lessons and is not to be missed.
3. Most changes come with mixed blessings. If possible, find the positive in the turbulence that can come your way. Grieving the loss of a family member or friend is so hard, for example, but the support of others can be eye-opening and truly meaningful.
4. Accept that the only thing in life that is dependable is change. We move, we age, our children grow up, we lose parents. This is all going to happen, regardless of how much we wish everything could stay just like it is. Ready or not, change is coming.
So, let’s embrace the arrival of the new, graciously say good-bye in the face of loss and move forward with excitement for what lies ahead. Whether it’s new staff, a new software system, new legal regulations, new strategic goals or new mission challenges, change in your personal life, change is inevitable. It may be comforting to know that it’s the one thing all of us have in common.