It would be nearly impossible to find someone who has not experienced change; small or life-altering, we all experience change. And the process of change is often fraught with uncertainty and pain. Why does the process itself bring about anxiety and resistance? And why do we resist change, even though the outcome is almost always personal growth?
I have experienced more change in a span of 3 1/2 years than I would have liked. We all experience life-altering events, but we generally have the luxury of experiencing these life events with significant time between or, ideally, at least somewhat within our control.
In the span of the last 3 1/2 years, I elected to take an job opportunity with the exciting challenge of working in an organization that allowed me the chance to design and implement new organizational practices in human development and to be a key part of creating a culture change in the organization. During the same month of my job change, my family moved houses. This was also a desired and planned change, albeit a little stressful packing and moving within 23 days of putting our house on the market. Still, I managed through this stress because I pursued the changes and accepted the stress as part of the deal. Then came the unplanned, undesired changes: within 2 months of all this activity, my mother had a stroke and lost a good bit of her speech and mobility. Within 6 months of that, my father was diagnosed with end-stage COPD, and a debilitating, rare form of arthritis. Both of my parents’ healthcare needs were exceedingly complex and time-consuming, and so, 1 year after I started my new job, I made the very difficult choice of leaving it. I realized that I needed to try to work differently, and this decision would prove to be frightening, but necessary.
My parents, both very ill, needed me; and I needed to be with them. My daughter, very close to both of my parents, needed me to help her through the transition of potentially losing her grandparents. And, my need to heed my calling – helping people and organizations to be better and stronger – still existed, as strong as any other time in my career. The demand to be attentive to every one of my roles – parent, leader, daughter, wife – seemed insurmountable at the time. Where I was able to balance and manage before, I suddenly could not. The demands of each role had changed. I left the experience of working 40 hours a week, something I had counted on, relied upon, and truly loved since I was 22 years old, and began working as an independent consultant, hoping it would allow me the ability to truly balance all of these roles.