Whether you’ve found yourself back on the job market or suddenly single, here’s what you need to know about starting over and dealing with change — at any age.
We sat down with America’s favorite coach for adults, midlife and better, Barbara Waxman MS/MPA, for her insight and dating advice on handling change, gaining confidence and how to deal with starting over at any age.
Q: When life throws you a curve ball, whether it be a divorce or job loss, what is the first thing you should do?
A: The first thing to do is breathe! It sounds simple and like a silly thing to do. It’s not. Curve balls have come at us, are coming at us and will come at us over the course of our lives. The first step is to take a moment (breathe) and ask yourself: how have I handled curve balls before? Have I tended to overreact? Have I been appropriately concerned but reasonable? Have I ignored warning signs for too long? Remind yourself and help yourself by understanding your history with curve balls and begin to create a plan of action based on that self-understanding.
Q: How does one get comfortable with the prospect of big change?
A: Most of us experience change as “hitting the wall.” What happens? The wall always wins and we end up bruised, battered and still have to figure out how to somehow get through it. What if you look at change as something that happens in cycles — like waves? What if you remember that change has happened before and what if you know that change will happen again? Furthermore, what if you lived life accepting that change may in fact be your only constant companion? Make friends with change by understanding what skills and resources you need to best work with (not against) it. You’ll likely find yourself a lot more comfortable with the reality of change.
Q: How can one gain self-confidence and feel OK on their own if they are not comfortable in that space?
A: If you are not comfortable being independent, or if you know that you are really ready for a partnership with another and that living on your own has become just plain lonely, don’t despair. There are a couple of really constructive things you can do. Begin by recognizing what your “next best thing” might be. For example, if you don’t want to have the weekend loom in front of you without concrete plans — then make some. Perhaps something better will come along and you will have to forgo it. But having what I call anchors in your weekend — plans with others, or plans to attend events, plans to take your dog to the dog park or plans to volunteer at a shelter — schedule these in advance rather than waiting for life to come to you.
On the flip side, find activities or places that make you feel comfortable being with yourself (notice I did not say alone). If you think about it, there is one person you are with from the moment you are born, 24/7 until your last moment — that is you. Why not make sure you treat yourself like you would your best friend?
Q: What is the most important tip you’d give someone about starting over?
A: Be sure to have closure to whatever chapter you are ending. Recognize what you will miss and acknowledge it. Think about how you will want to add that back in at the appropriate time. Think about what lessons you’ve learned and what you won’t repeat –be conscious of this step because as you know, many, many, many of us repeat past mistakes. Once you’ve experienced closure then you are ready to begin creating your next chapter. Not starting over — but adding on to your life story.
Q: Is there a positive opportunity in having to go through a challenging/difficult life change?
A: If you read about the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers you will see that they all share something in common — the challenges associated with great change. I would argue that change is a prerequisite to a fulfilled life. Look at spiritual leaders — Moses, Jesus, Buddha; look at political leaders: Lincoln, Roosevelt, Mandela; look at inspirational leaders: Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Mother Theresa; I could go on but I think you get the point. Life is a series of experiences. Some good. Some bad. Some worse than that. The question is: which will define you?
Are you ready to take charge of your financial well being? Barbara is leading a Women and Wealth weekend retreat in Napa Valley, CA, April 23-25. Get more details here.
About Barbara Waxman, MS/MPA:
Barbara Waxman, President and founder of the Odyssey Group, works with business owners, executives and individuals increase their leadership capacity and their ability to deliver concrete results. Barbara founded The Odyssey Group in 2005 in order to use her skills as an executive and life transition coach for adults, midlife and better. “My passion is working with people for whom the primary tasks of middle adulthood have been complete. Children may have (almost) been raised. Relationships have stayed the course, dissolved, or are on the horizon. Career goals have been achieved, have been a disappointment or are being dreamed of. The question we face is “What’s next?”