Frustrated. Disappointed. Confused. Anxious.
Last week, I had an opportunity to chat with a nonprofit executive who shared all of the above with me. Why? She was expressing angst over change and uncertainty in the nonprofit world in general — and specifically with what’s on her own plate.
During our conversation, I recounted a time in my life when shifting sands caused me to freak-out in my own way. I didn’t tell her the whole story, so here goes. My marriage was falling apart and I was shell-shocked. My son was biting other children at pre-school. I was humiliated because we were on the waiting list for this school for two years, and I was fearful my cute little boy with quick-draw teeth and I would be asked to move on. I had a job I loved, but it didn’t pay enough to be financially stable and I wasn’t at all certain I had a future there. I was frustrated, disappointed, confused and in a constant state of anxiety.
How was I going to handle all of this stress brought on by change that was out of my control?*
The part of the story I shared with the executive was about dealing with frustration and anxiety. The gentle and grandmotherly pre-school owner urged me to sign up for parenting classes. (Her suggestion caused another embarrassment—I must be a bad parent because I can’t figure this out.) Not only was her suggestion spot-on, I learned some important and life-long lessons.
1. I can’t know it all.
2. I can’t do it all.
3. I can learn to ride the waves better.
The last one was really the game changer. I had to find a way to handle the stress from the uncertainty, and I learned the coolest (literally!) way. Open the freezer door and SCREAM into it! No one gets hurt, the release feels good and the blast of cold air to the face cools hot feelings immediately. I used this technique for a long time and recommend it!
An earlier blog about change included this quote, which is so appropriate: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” (Chinese proverb)
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the cold blasts were windmills. I opened that freezer door enough times to power a small country. The freezer became a tool to help me deal with everything on my plate.
(*How did the rest of the story end? The biting was limited to one child. With the help of the “Gentle Grandmother” and the child’s mother, we solved the problem. I divorced and maintained a civil relationship with my ex. I stayed at my job and with the help of the owners and family, I went back to school and completed my undergraduate degree. I remarried. I opened my own firm. I became involved in the community. It all worked out.)
Now, tell me your story. How do you handle change that is outside of your control?