Adapting to Change

2013-08-23 19.05.24

 

I have always had dogs and cats living with me. A short while before going on holiday our elderly and last remaining cat passed peacefully away. We were all heartbroken as he had been such a little character, always chatting to us, sitting on our shoulders as we worked at a desk or the computer and lying next to the dogs in the family room or standing waiting on them or us to dry him off when he came in from the rain. As he had such a strong presence our home seemed very quiet without him and the thought of bringing in another little cat did not seem very fair or right at that time.

By a strange coincidence the house we had rented for our holiday had living right next door to it a caretaker and he had four quite young cats. Initially the cats were shy and quite aloof and we were not really aware of their presence but as curiosity soon got the better of them they quickly began coming round to visit us and sit beside us as we sat and read or swam. By the time we came home we all had decided to get another cat. I had anticipated no problems with the dogs as they were so used to cats and had such sweet natures that they would accept anything. So, shortly after we came home we got a little black kitten and almost the day after I received a surprise with the gift of another little kitten, this one grey and white. The kittens were both fortunately males and luckily almost exactly the same age. It was no surprise that they got on really well and almost immediately began to play and sleep wrapped around each other. Our surprise came when some of the dogs who had always had a cat living with them in the house, actually found it really hard to adapt and cope with the new arrivals. Strangely it was my three biggest dogs that seemed to be the most affected, the others being neither up nor down. They were not aggressive, simply afraid and their fear manifested itself in different ways. One seemed to decide that if he looked up all the time and never down at the floor then they didn’t exist and he walked around staring at me or the ceiling with the kittens chasing around his feet. The second appeared to think that if he stuck his head under a cushion he would instantly become invisible so spent his time doing just that every time the kittens came near to him.The third and youngest  of my Golden Retrievers elected to mimic a parrot, when either of the kittens made any move towards him, he simply would get off the floor and quickly climb on to my shoulder as I sat on the couch. Of course the kittens absolutely loved this game, it was amazing ,they knew they had power and were loving being able to use it. They would try and scramble under the cushion to see Alfie, run around Teddy’s feet and trip him up and try to use my legs as a climbing post to get to Bruce. We were all amazed, after all our dogs loved cats what on earth were we going to do? Well, fortunately we did not need to do anything as all it took was a little time, time for the dogs to get used to the size of the kittens and time for them to realise that the kittens were just trying to play and have some fun. As soon as they recognised and accepted that, it took about a week, they became happy to lie on the floor and allow themselves to be used as climbing posts and now they are simply delighted when one of the kittens decides to lie cuddled next to them and purr happily away until asleep. The kittens have learned too. They know that the dogs will walk away if they try to chew their feet or run up their backs so they have stopped even trying. They want the dogs to be there and to play with them but have learned boundaries. The dogs have taught them those simply by withdrawing from play and moving to another room, anytime they felt the kittens were playing too roughly for them and the kittens have been astute enough to pick up on those signals and adapted their play.

In hindsight it was a bit unfair of me to think that the dogs would have no concerns about me introducing something new in to their environment, their home. Milo, our old cat had been their friend for many years. He was a certain size and behaved a certain way. The kittens are much smaller, faster and something quite new .But, by giving them all time and space, letting them each adjust to the new arrivals in a safe setting they have quickly recognised that there is nothing to fear and have been flexible and willing to adapt to the change. Now, looking at them all as they play and sleep together, it seems as if there has never been anything other than complete harmony.

Watching them learn and adapt and become good friends has strangely made me rethink what I expect from myself and others. We all take time to adapt to new circumstances and events, even if we have had similar experiences in the past we may need to allow ourselves a little more time to accept and become comfortable with any changes, even positive ones.

We need to take personal responsibility to set our own boundaries, ones which make us feel comfortable and make them clear to others. We should not just expect them to know what we want or need from them as that is simply unfair. If others make clear to us what their boundaries are we must respect them and not try to foist our own beliefs or strategies on to them, even if we feel they might be of help. We can explain how we feel and why we think it may help but still back off and let them come to terms with any issues or circumstances in their own time and at their own pace.

We are all different and as unique individuals and when faced with something new we each will have our own way of handling things. Some people find it very easy to adapt to change and others much more difficult. Knowing what makes us “tick” as an individual lets us develop a strategy for coping with change and helps us to manage it and make life easier.

For certain people fear is sometimes a normal response to being asked to face something new and different, before they have had time to adjust to a situation. If this is how you feel ,know that you  do not need to respond angrily or aggressively to new things, as that sort of strategy will never improve a situation or clear any issues, in fact almost always all that will do is make everything worse. Instead acknowledge that you have a need to get used to new circumstances, whatever they are, good or bad  and then take time to gather more information to enable you to adapt more quickly, make better decisions and be flexible enough to cope with and accept change.

Generally, when we show people close to us and even those a little more distant, respect and give each other personal space, we find that we can usually resolve any problems or issues and create an outcome that we are all happy with.

What can I do ?

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A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.

Wade Boggs.

I often tell people it is not what happens to you but how you handle what happens to you that determine how happy you are in life. Quite often I am told that it is easy to be positive when nothing is wrong but natural to feel negative when faced with adversity. I agree initially, it is quite natural to feel angry, sad, frustrated and hurt when life presents us with a problem or an issue to deal with that we would really rather not have to. However it is not good or healthy for us to remain feeling that way for any length of time. It most certainly will not help us to cope better with any adversity that we may be faced with and is in fact far more likely to add to our misery. So how do we change our attitude and see the positive when feeling only negatively? There is no magic wand to wave that can do it for you it requires conscious effort continuous hard work and determination but the results are well worth it. You will be happier and you will be in charge of your life. How do I know ?Well I live with someone who decided to do just that and I can daily see the positive benefit to his decision as can everyone around us.

My daughter’s partner was just like any other normal active young man until through no fault of his own he was injured in a car accident. Sitting in a queue of cars waiting to get out at a roundabout he looked in his rear window and noticed to his horror another car approaching at speed. With cars in front of him and at the side of him there was nowhere he could go and no action he could take to get out of the way. He braced himself as the car hit his car from the back and pushed him forward. He felt the pain in his knee immediately as the brake pedal he had his foot resting on came up with force. Although in pain and shocked he thanked his lucky stars that no one else was injured and all he appeared to have was a torn cartilage in his knee but that was just the start of his problems. Following surgery he began to develop pain and swelling in a lot of his joints. His knee wasn’t working properly and coming downstairs painful. Further investigations revealed that he had rheumatoid arthritis. He was just 23 years old and suddenly he was no longer able to do the sports to the level he had previously enjoyed and just walking was painful. Various medications were tried all with varying results. His hair began to thin and joints became deformed. Now many people would have felt pretty down at this stage and many might have thought quite naturally “why me?” He could have done that and we would have had every sympathy with him if he had but it would not have done him much good and would more than likely have added to his pain. Instead, however, he chose to tackle what was happening to his body head on. He read all about it and had long conversations with his specialist to determine the best course of treatment for him. He couldn’t play rugby anymore so he decided to take up cycling. He decided to focus his attention on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t  do and he found that it began to make his body feel stronger again and reduced the pain he felt in his joints. He got his work place to get him a chair that made his posture better and helped him be more comfortable. He took up photography and goes for long walks. Now, twelve years after the accident which triggered the whole thing off no one would ever guess there was anything at all wrong with him. He never complains not even when teased about holding his little pinkie finger up when drinking a cup of tea or having a beer. He actually can’t put it down; it is molded to that shape due to the arthritis. He doesn’t care it is a quirky part of him now.  He cycles to his work which is many miles away as often as he can and has cycled a long distance over three days for charity. His new medication means new hair not that I think anyone noticed the previous lack. We were all too busy looking at his pictures or having fun. He has chosen to not let anything stop him from being the person he wants to be. He is in charge of his life not the arthritis. He has a positive attitude and it is infectious. He is happy with his life and those around him are positively impacted by him. His attitude is not unique as there are many people who face difficult and challenging life events with the same positive determination. They all teach us that by adopting a positive attitude and approach to life we can make it better. We do not need to sit down and feel sorry for ourselves. We can all change things for the better if we are determined and focused on what we have and want to have rather than dwelling on what we do not want and do not have. The power to do so comes from our attitude to our circumstances rather than the circumstances themselves.

New Shoes

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I have dogs and live in the country. As a consequence, unless going out somewhere I usually spend my time running around wearing shirts, jeans and trainers. These are all clothes which are suitable and practical to brush off the dog hair and stay reasonably tidy and on my feet when walking and living with them. Recently I tripped and noticed that the sole of my favourite trainers were coming off a little at the toe and I decided to go and buy some new ones. The choice was amazing and so large that it was initially a little bit overwhelming. To help me decide I made a list of what I required from a trainer, firstly I eliminated running shoes. Although I run it is never intentional, always based on pure necessity, usually after one on the dogs and always just a short sprint. Next I eliminated negative heel and ones designed to help me tone up. I need desperately to tone up but trying to balance whilst walking the dogs seemed a little too much like extreme sports for me. Working my way down my list of what I wanted in training shoes I was finally able to focus my attention on an all-round, comfort, walking trainer. Next choice was colour and then design. Finally I had selected my perfect shoe. When they arrived I eagerly put them on and felt silly for feeling so excited. The trainer was indeed comfortable, really nice but every time I looked down at my feet I was very aware of them being there and being brand new .I felt certain that everyone must know they were new as they  were beginning to feel, to me, like I was wearing clown feet. They were bright and cheerful and obvious, I went back to wearing my old trainers .Then tripped again and thought how daft I was being as I had spent money on carefully selected new ones .I decided that I simply had to just bite the bullet and wear them. For the first week I was really conscious of them poking out from underneath my jeans and found myself glancing longingly at my old ones sitting in the hall cupboard every time I opened the cupboard door. I persevered and before long I had was not even aware that I had completely forgotten I was wearing new trainers. Last week I was clearing out the hall cupboard and found my old trainers. They looked really tatty, scruffy and worn. ? Why on earth did I wear these for so long I thought? Then I realised we do that a lot in life with a lot of things and sometimes even with people. We hold on to them because they are familiar and were once comfortable. Even when they start giving us problems we cling on hoping somehow that the problems will just disappear and things will go back to normal. Most of us do not like change and it takes us time to adjust and accept new things, new people. The comforting thing is that if we allow ourselves time to adjust to new circumstances, before long they become familiar to us also and eventually comfortable too. All we really need to do is accept and recognise the need to make a positive change. It doesn’t really matter whether it is a big personal change or silly and small like my trainers the principal for each is the same. Once we have recognised that something is no longer helping us or working for us and decide to start afresh all we need to do is take it a day at a time, each day reminding ourselves what it is that we now want, persevere with the new and much more quickly than you could imagine the change is familiar and no longer new. It becomes comfortable and life will be easier once again.

Opening Doors

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I have three daughters who have all chosen to go to University to further their education before starting their careers. The youngest is just in her first year at university and loves her course. She has no idea yet where it will lead her and has no set career in mind at the moment she is just waiting to see what subject inspires her before deciding on her career path, but she feels strongly that for her, obtaining a degree is the best way forward. The older two girls both have honours degrees in the same subject but both then went on to take a post graduate and a master in an entirely different field from each other, in order to open the door to their chosen careers. I have also got friends that have left school without any qualifications and worked their way through various jobs, using experience from each one to open a door to the other and friends that gave up high powered careers to follow their hearts to find happiness. Some I have known followed a less easy route at the beginning and seemed to be going to have a lot of unhappiness because of their original choices yet at some point have said “enough” and have successfully managed to turn their lives positively around. Others have concentrated on their families and made that their career. All very different, yet they all share a drive and a determination to move forward in life towards their goals. Each of them has different skills, strengths and interests but each share a belief that they alone have responsibility to guide their life in the direction that they want it to go and a knowledge that they can change direction when they feel they need to or want to.

 So today when I counsel people I am often amazed when I hear their limiting belief that because they have made a mistake, made the wrong decision, their entire life must be spent still going down the wrong road because it is the one they are presently on. I am amazed and surprised because as far as I am aware there is no rule that says you cannot change what you are doing. To me it is simple. When something isn’t working do not keep doing it. At any point in your life you have the ability to stop and change direction. Antony Robbins says “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten” He is of course absolutely right. So why keep doing it? We can all be guilty of this at some point in our lives and for various reasons. Sometimes we do because we feel that we will be considered a failure if we change, if we admit we have got it wrong. But, if we really stopped to think about that reason surely we actually fail by not admitting our need to find a new way of doing something or a new method of working through a problem? Sometimes other people put pressure on us to keep at it when clearly we know it is not right for us and yet we allow them to continue to exert this pressure on us because we perhaps fear upsetting them or being judged harshly by them. Whatever the reason, if it is clearly not working then we need to change what we are doing.

Once we actually stop and recognise that something is not the way we had planned it to be or thought it would be and admit that to ourselves, we can then take the first constructive steps to being able to make positive changes and probably feel better than we have for a long while.

We naturally evolve and change as we grow and learn. To make full use of that new learning and new knowledge we must not be afraid of change. I often hear “I can’t do anything about it. I am just leaving it up to fate “That is fine if you have exhausted every other avenue but without at first trying then to me that is just an  opt out of taking personal responsibility for your life. Yes, I believe that fate plays a part in life but that can be used to guide us. Just because one door was closed doesn’t mean that all doors are. Often another opens. Perhaps in a direction different than you first thought but open nevertheless. Opportunities are all around if you look. Perhaps to take advantage of them you need to push yourself a little harder or take a chance or two but they are there. When Tony Robbins was asked what prompted him to change his life he said “Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things that I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming”

In other words he pushed himself to make positive changes by deciding what he now wanted to invite in to his life.

As always the choice and ability to find happiness and contentment lies within our own actions and reactions to life.

 
 

Take a Chance

 

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It is really easy to give a million reasons why you have not achieved whatever it is that you had hoped for or why you haven’t pushed yourself for that new job, new relationship, new business the list could go on and often does. We get in to an easy habit of making excuses for not pushing ourselves forward and the sad fact is that often we come to believe them ourselves. We can even allow our excuses to cloud our judgment and become the reason we are feeling fed up and lethargic. Often we do this because we are too scared to try and fail. We become obsessed with the fear of failing and forget that not to try really is an automatic fail anyway. At least if we try something and fail we have learned something new. That in itself allows us to have energy to try again and move forward in a different, better direction.

I have written about this before and no doubt will do so again, it is too important to ignore .Life can be short or long but it is for living and not just treading water to survive. We all make an impact, no matter how small and everyone has a purpose.

Dale Carnegie once said “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare “.

If you are perfectly happy with your life exactly as it is then you are getting it right, making the right choices and decisions. If however you feel fed up or frustrated then simply it is time to decide to take a chance on trying something new .It doesn’t matter your age, that is just another excuse. If you check on the internet you will easily find the names of many successful people who did not become successful until late in life and equally the same with young extremely successful people. You can always find information to back up what you are looking for so make sure you look for the positive if you wish to be motivated to succeed. Your background and education do not matter; using either is just another excuse. All that matters is your inner desire to change and occasionally having a dream to follow. Although, to bring some energy and new direction in to your life even having a dream is not necessary, all you really need is a desire to try something new, that’s enough to start with.

Remember there is nothing wrong with behaving like Goldilocks and sampling things until you find the one that is just right for you. Without trying the others first you would never have known what your real preference was and how to achieve it. Every new experience will add to your life and help enrich it, even the ones that do not quite work out .At the very least it will give you something to tell your friends about and give a new energy to your life. At best it can totally transform you. So what are you waiting for?

Meeting your expectations.

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I mentioned last week that my Mum was having to go through a period of adjustment and find a new home after 23 years living in her much loved upper flat. Somehow I fell in to the trap of thinking that as soon as she had come to terms with the idea of moving everything else would just naturally fall in to place. I am clearly a glass half full type of person. What I hadn’t considered though was the impact that searching for the new home was going to have on us all.

We believed that it was going to be a simple straightforward procedure. We obviously haven’t moved a lot in our lives and certainly not recently! Mum selected houses in an area she liked, with room sizes that looked reasonable and large, fenced off enclosed gardens. She based her selections, as everyone does, on various Estate agents pictures and descriptions. Going to view the selected houses she was quite excited and looking forward to a fresh start. It was a huge shock to us both to find that many of the houses we viewed didn’t really look size wise like any of the cleverly taken photographs had suggested. Fenced gardens weren’t all completely fenced and in many cases a fenced patch would have been a more appropriate description. It felt truly awful going through someone’s much loved home knowing that whilst it was perfect for them it didn’t meet Mums needs at all. How can you criticize someone’s lovingly tended patch, when you know how proud they are of it, and how can you truthfully say you are interested when they eagerly enquire your views?

It seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that takes pictures deliberately to mislead prospective purchasers. What does it achieve? It can only frustrate the home seller as much as the viewer and when you actually see it the disappointment is more acute than it would have been if you had known exactly what you were choosing to view.

The houses we have viewed were not bad. They were lovely homes and would have been entirely suitable for someone else, someone without two large dogs perhaps! What happens though as that everyone ends up feeling slightly let down.

Strangely viewing the stylised pictures of the houses has made me even more determined to embrace my true self and to really value the individual natures of my family and friends. There is something really refreshing about dealing with honest, direct characters after viewing so many stylised photographs that have no basis in reality.

It made me think of us as people and why it is so important to remain true to ourselves and not to try to become something that other people, but not us want us to be. A false front can’t last as it requires too much energy to keep up and to maintain .It also prevents us from actually meeting and bonding with the people who truly like us and can really relate to us. The world is full of interesting and varied individuals. How sad would life be if we turned in to well-manicured, highly polished clones of each other as some magazines would seem to suggest?

If the houses we have viewed were advertised to show them exactly as they are, the right people would view them and no doubt they would sell much more quickly by reaching the right target market. There really was nothing wrong with them in the first place. Their photographs just presented a falsely attractive image to us as we were searching for a large enclosed space. Equally the pictures may well have put off a prospective buyer looking for something smaller and more manageable .In truth it is not just the Estate agents who are at fault I think we could all benefit from being a bit more honest. Honest about what we are looking for and what we have to offer to get it. We all need to relax a little and like ourselves more. We should respect ourselves enough not to have to pretend to be what we are not. Likely we would all be much happier if we had the confidence to do so. 

As for the house hunting, well it still goes on but we have learned from this experience. Now before we go to view a house we visit the area first and drive past to get an idea of the garden size and external look of the house. If that meets Mums criteria we visit and I can honestly say we are much happier about what we have viewed. All being well we may actually be placing an offer in for one soon.

Mum has to sell her house too and we have decided that the pictures will honestly represent it. People will come to view and see exactly the same thing that attracted them in the first place. Hopefully they will like it and Mum can soon move on to the next new chapter in her life and have some fun.

Moving on.

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All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

Anatole France

 

My Mum has lived for over twenty years in her much loved, large traditional flat. It has huge bay windows, large airy bright rooms and a view that is spectacular, over countryside with a distant view of the sparkling lights of the city of Glasgow. She is physically fit and active but now eighty. Her home is on a steep hill with stairs up to her front door and again to her back garden. Not a problem twenty years ago but becoming one now. She also has two much loved dogs that she takes out four times every day ,probably why she is so fit, but that is now becoming a problem as the stairs and hill become harder for her to manage. Even more of a problem if the weather is bad.

Very reluctantly and after a fall last year, when she fractured her arm, she has come to the realization that she must move and has started looking for a suitable new home .Despite her deciding to look for another house every house we have seen has been compared unfavorably with her own. Rooms too small, corridors too narrow, no view, the list could go on. Each time after we had viewed a place we would go through the same depressing discussions.

We all felt a little sad and a bit despondent because we have not really known what to say or do to help her adjust. All of the family was very aware of the huge changes that she needed to go through to adapt to a different way of living. The acceptance of these changes had to come from her and we felt powerless, unable to help her come to terms with things.

Then help came from a very surprising source indeed, her solicitor. During a discussion about selling her home and buying a new one she spoke about how miserable it was making her feel to have to move. The solicitor looked at her and said “why, would you rather stay in your gilded cage?” “You have the potential to have a new and much better life adventure in more suitable surroundings and remember it will only be a bit strange for a very short while before it too becomes home. There are many, many worse things that could be happening in your life. This is something nice”. I sat in stunned silence waiting on my Mum’s reaction. It seemed to me that the solicitor had been truthful and clearly well-intentioned but a little too direct and I wondered how Mum would feel. I shouldn’t have been worried as it turned out to be exactly what Mum needed to hear. She was laughing as we left the office and has since decided that she will look on it as a new life adventure. She acknowledges that it will be a bit sad leaving her old flat and moving to something new but feels that her attitude to it now has changed. She is looking at the advantages rather than the disadvantages and she says that she feels so much better.

It is certainly true that in life if we dwell on the negative and sad then we are not going to feel very strong or happy. Life presents us with choices and challenges all the time. We can’t avoid them if we want to live life fully and part of living is accepting that things change. Being able to adapt to those changes and go with them to create something new and positive is the best way to succeed.