Coping with Change and Transition: What’s an Entepreneur to Do?

2007-beach-wave.jpgPerhaps you went from a one-person office to managing a staff of three. Maybe one of your major long-term clients called to say they are moving to Albuquerque and no longer need your services. Or it could be that your spouse’s company announced a merger and move, you both decided to relocate along with them, and now you’re setting up your entrepreneurial shop all over again. Are these opportunities to grow? Sure. But let’s face it. We’re talking about change.

And be it large or small, change is change. Sudden or planned, transitions can be taxing on our nerves and effect our overall well-being. We should know. We are entrepreneurs and dealing with change comes with the territory…but are there basic strategies for coping with it?

When I was 10 years old, we moved from a small town in northern California to New York City. The change of lifestyle was huge and the transition not particularly easy. One day I was walking to school past pastures of cows, going on field trips to the country for picnics and playing in the safety of our suburban cul-de-sac. A week later I was learning how to ride city buses to ballet class and how to focus on my schoolwork with taxi horns blaring outside my classroom window. I missed my friends. I missed petting the horses down the street. I missed the life I knew.

But I was fortunate. My family, the counselors at day camp the first summer, the journal that one of those counselors encouraged me to keep, and the circle of Italian aunts, uncles and grandparents helped ease the transition. Looking back, I see that the support I had was part of the “coping strategy” (of course I didn’t call it that at age 10) that eventually helped me find new friends, enjoy corner grocery stores with penny candy, and be excited rather than reticent of city field trips to the Empire State Building.

From my current vantage point, I clearly see that support from others played a key role in helping me through the transition of that move. And support from others is still the foundation of the strategy I use to this day to help me navigate the changes and transitions of my entrepreneurial life. Here’s the whole list:

7 Tips for Entrepreneurs to Use to Cope with Change and Transition

1. Find a source of support so you can vent. Choose someone or a group of someones to talk to about the change, transition, uncertainty and confusion in your life and ask her/him/them to listen (no problem-solving) without interruption so you can express your thoughts and feelings.

2. Make basic self-care a priority. During this challenging time, make sure you get plenty of sleep, adequate nutritious food (particularly protein), and some kind of physical pampering (massage, acupuncture, pedicure or foot massage) to keep your nervous system balanced.

3. Start a new transitions journal. First vent here. Then, step back from or rise above your situation with an eye for how it could ultimately serve your life. Start with these inquiries: What inner qualities will you develop as you move through this transition? What fears and hurdles will you overcome? If writing isn’t for you, take these inquiries along with you as you move to tip #4.

4. Get outside and witness nature. Go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride. Visit a park and observe the plants, trees, and birds. Notice the ease with which nature moves through transitions and seasons. Know that this ease is in your nature too.

5. Breathe. Take time throughout the day for a few deep breaths. Expand your capacity to do so by moving your shoulders back, straightening your spine, and allowing your belly to be filled as well as your lungs. Give thanks for your breath. It will be with you the entire time you move through this transition. Take comfort in this.

6. Create a confidence file. Make a list of past and recent achievements that reflect your ability to overcome obstacles and challenges and keep it in a folder or on your Blackberry, Treo or computer. The hard file could also contain letters of recommendation, encouraging notes from family and friends, or testimonial letters from clients or other people you’ve helped in the past. Look at this file weekly.

7. Throw lemons. Times of transition call forth many emotions. Sometimes, anger and frustration are the order of the day and we need to find healthy ways of expressing them. When I first learned we were moving to New York when I was a kid, and I was angry at having to do so, my mom handed me a few over-ripe lemons. She encouraged me to go outside (away from anyone else:) and throw the lemons down onto the driveway and watch them go splat! To this day, when all else fails, I will do the same thing. Quite a juicy tension-reliever!

** Bonus tip: Read something inspirational. The comfort of uplifting words will help you navigate the uncertainty of change. See the reading list for some refreshing ideas.

Now Take Action
Circle one, two or three that you are willing to put into practice for a week and go to it. Post a report of your experiences.

•Recommended Reading List:
Seven Sacred Attitudes, by Erica Ross-Krieger
Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther and Jerry Hicks
Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges
The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation by Dan Millman