Coping with any sort of change is something many people struggle with for as long as memory serves. It’s a commonly accepted truth that change is hard.
If you have time to consider, plan and embrace a change that’s coming, it makes the whole process easier to deal with. Sometimes, though, time to prepare for change isn’t a luxury that’s afford us.
So it is with my decision to leave markthree media, my professional home since July last year.
In the last 9 months, I’ve learned a huge amount, made or cemented friendships with a wide range of different people and been creatively and professionally more than fulfilled.
All of this makes it even more disheartening that I’m having to bow out of the company due to my physical health. The combination of the London commute, the long and often strange hours and my own general health have combined to make continuing to be part of markthree unsustainable.
Coping with the intervention of my physical health on my day-to-day life is something I’m not particularly good at. After transplant, I was well-aware that things would never be all sunshine and roses, but I simply didn’t anticipate that I would find myself once again physically unable to do something.
Kate and Paul have been utterly wonderful, bending over backwards to accommodate me, but the truth is that markthree is a small company with tight budgets and it’s just not economically viable for them to adapt to my needs for telecommuting or other approaches to the work. At least I know I leave with two tremendous friends, rather than two frustrated, bitter ex-bosses.
All of this, of course, begs the question of how you cope with such sudden, unexpected change in your life? For me, it’s a four-step process that helps to refocus all of the issues into a single, targeted action plan.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE CONCERNS: What are you worried about?
Change causes a lack of stability, which in turn raises stresses and worries about not only the present, but the future. Identifying what these concerns are and how they manifest themselves in your life is the first – and possibly most important – step.
Clearly, the top worry on my mind right now is money – I’m losing a full-time income just 3 months before I’m due to get married. In many of life’s change situations, money is a key element and even more so when the change is work-related.
Second to that – not by much – is the concern over my physical health – what does this mean for me in the long term? If I’ve had to give up one job because I physically couldn’t cope with it, how will I cope with jobs in the future?
STEP 2: FIND THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO: What’s the worst that could happen?
Once you know what you’re worried about, the next step is to work out what the worst-case scenario is. Knowing the very worst that you can anticipate helps lessen the shock if it happens, helps to focus on ways to avoid it, but also, as we’ll see in Step 3, often serves to put things in their proper perspective.
In my case, the worst that can happen is that I am never able to hold down a full-time job, or any job for that matter. I may never be employed again and I may forever exist on state handouts, which are getting harder and harder to come by, thanks to the welfare reform bill1.
As for my physical concerns, ultimately, the worst of the worst is that this downturn in health marks the start of the inevitable gradual decline of my physical well-being to the point where my body rejects my new lungs and I end up deteriorating past the point of no return and dying. There isn’t really a nice way of saying that, sorry.
STEP 3: ANALYSE THE WORST CASE: How likely is it, really?
Now that we’ve pinpointed the worst things that could happen, we can start to rationalise a little bit. One by one, for all of your concerns and worst-case scenario fears, take some time to analyse the reality of the situation.
Am I truly never going to be able to work again? Highly unlikely. Will I be able to work full-time again? Maybe, maybe not. Is that the end of the world? We’ll see.
Chances are that I’m going to be perfectly able to work again, and the chances are very good that I’ll be able to withstand full-time work, too. But if not, I’ve got options – see Step 4 for more on that.
In terms of my physical health, for transplantees the ultimate worry is rejection and failure of the transplanted organs, which is only natural. But, really and rationally, how likely is that?
I saw my transplant doctors two weeks ago and my tests were absolutely fine: no signs of infection (often a precursor to rejection), no signs of a drop in lung-function, my liver and kidneys are working perfectly well and my blood sugars are under control.
Given all of that solid, statistical, medical evidence, it seems highly unlikely that whatever malady I happen to currently be suffering is going to be anything more than a slightly-longer-than-normal blip in the big picture of my new life.
Looking back on those two worst-case scenarios, they suddenly seem far less likely and, because of that, far less scary.
STEP 4: ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS: What can you do next?
Having worked out what you’re afraid of, what the worst-case scenario is and what the likelihood of that happening is, it’s now time to decide what the next steps could be. Doing nothing is a sure-fire way to accelerate you along the path to your worst-case scenario.
What do I need to do to assuage my biggest fear? Earn money. Therefore, the next question for me has to be what can I do to make money?
- I can freelance – work for myself doing odd bits and bobs of filmmaking, editing or digital marketing for various companies and people that need the kind of skills that I can offer.
- I can get a job – start searching the online job listings, submitting my CV and lining myself up interviews to see where I can place myself in the working world, closer to home than the centre of Islington.
- I can start my own business – something I’ve been looking at for a long time; creating a form of income that doesn’t 100% depend on me being in tip-top condition because it’s based around things I can do from my bed, at home or even my hospital bed.
The first and the last options are quite closely related and depend on one thing; most of my income has to come from things I can do remotely and/or on my own timescale. Last year, when I was freelancing as a filmmaker, it emerged that I couldn’t sustain that way of life because if I was ill and missed a shoot day, I didn’t get paid (not to mention letting the client down and damaging my own reputation).
So I need to find a way of supporting myself that is flexible and offers the best chance of sustaining a lifestyle that gives me the most pleasure for the amount of work I put in.
To that end, I’m going to focus on writing2, set myself up to offer copywriting services, digital marketing strategy consultancy for businesses and outreach strategy work for independent filmmakers. In time, I hope that these various things will allow me to do the work I love at the pace I can handle, from a location I can choose.
STEP 5: IDENTIFY AND EMBRACE THE POSITIVES: What does this change enable you to do?
The last step in the process, now you’ve identified what you’re worried about, how likely bad things are to happen, how you can get move on and deal with the change in the best way, it’s time to pause and find the positives of the situation.
My job in London was making me ill. It was exhausting me and causing such great fatigue that I had stopped doing almost all of the things I loved in life.
Recently, I’ve missed two big family meals, something that would normally be a priority for me but that I simply didn’t have the energy for. I’ve stopped going to the movies; until this week I hadn’t sat in a cinema seat for nearly a year. My life consisted of getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home, eating and sleeping.
Now I no longer have to contend with 4 hours of commute in a day, I should be able to get back to the things that matter most to me. Spending quality time with my wife-to-be, seeing more of my family and friends and focusing on my physical health and fitness by getting out and exercising more.
It’s part of this blog’s ideology3 that there are positives in every situation, so finding the good things in even an enforced change can help shift your perspective around. And, having now worked out that your biggest fears are unlikely to come true, it should be far easier to find the good things to cling to as you grow and adapt to the change.
CHANGE WILL COME
If you find yourself in a similar situation, try taking yourself through this 5-step process and really allowing yourself to focus on each step as much as possible. Write it all down (just writing this post has been extremely cathartic) and put things into perspective: the worst-case scenario is almost never truly possible.
Give yourself a break from beating yourself up, or fretting about things, and focus on what you can do to lift yourself out of the change-induced funk and start taking steps forward to live the life you want.
And, of course, if you know anyone who may want some copywriting or digital marketing doing, you know where to send them.
Some other posts you might like:
- The growth of SmileThroughIt
- Stop Looking To The Future, Start Living Your Life
- Year of Positive Change
- Year of Positive Change, Month 1: Daily Exercise
- Why being passive gets you nowhere (or why you should take action today)