Adapting to Change

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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.

The right attitude gives the best experience.

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One of my daughters is getting married and we have been shopping for “the dress”. I rather naively thought this was going to be a straightforward, simple, nice experience for us all to do. I had not realized how times have changes since I went looking for my own dress, many years ago. Nowadays there appears to me to be a lot more pressures on the bride to be than ever before, a whole lot more pressure. Today because of the new celebrity culture that seems to be around, the internet and movies, all manufacturing an image and a perceived standard for the potential bride to be and her friends and family to meet, the pressure is on before you have even ventured out to the shops to look. There is a certain pressure on the shops too as image appears to be everything. Although we found out that even a good external image can be deceptive as I will later explain.

My first surprise was that the present system requires any potential bride to book an appointment to go try on dresses. I thought my daughters were kidding on when they advised me of this. When I was younger (and clearly I am giving away my age now), you just went to look at the shops you wished to look at without having to have pre-arranged your appointment. That doesn’t seem to be possible now and so it was the bridesmaids jobs to phone ahead, weeks in advance to book the shops (bridal boutiques) that my daughter had selected and then having successfully done that, they had to create an online calendar which notified all the relevant parties to save the times and dates .It was done with military precision and required a lot of effort from the girls involved to make sure it all worked and allowed everyone time to get from one place to the next and have lunch in between. Given that we had several hills to climb and were all varying ages and fitness levels that was harder to do than you would think, yet somehow my daughters wonder team managed it.

Our first weekend shopping was done locally and I began to realise why an appointment had been required. There was a huge choice now available and not just in design but in colour, texture, pattern material and accessories. At first my daughter was a bit like a child in a sweetie shop, she wanted to try on everything and had absolutely no idea of what she liked or disliked. Had they not just given us an allotted hour we could have stayed lost in there for days. All thoughts of time went out the window. We all felt rather overwhelmed by the huge selection available and with few exceptions, thought every dress she tried on was lovely but none amazing. Since it was amazing she was after we moved on to shop number two. Shop number two fortunately did not have the layout of number one. You selected from books the dresses you wished to try on and as there was not as much choice we quickly calmed down and were able to focus on the designs and shapes we had liked on her in the previous shop. As there was still no “amazing “feeling we agreed to move on to the next on the list. Shop number three was arranged for the following weekend .It was one my daughter was quite excited about visiting. The dresses were displayed in a way that made them look both glamorous and exciting. We arrived five minutes before our appointment, which was the first of the day. The rain was pouring down as we rang the bell for entry. After a moment the impressive door was opened by the owner who advised us that we would have to wait for another 4 minutes before she would let us in. Attitude is everything as they say so when the door was opened again four minute later and we were allowed in, there was simply no dress in the world that could have made any of us want to purchase from her store .As it was we were not even tempted as most of the dresses my daughter tried on were rather grey having been tried on by many excited brides to be before. Who knows if we had been met by a smile and asked to wait inside in the foyer how differently we might have felt, but, the negative and unfriendly start made us all see every fault there was to see. The stop had lost its sparkle for us and so we moved on to shop number four There we were so pleased to be met by a friendly and helpful owner that we all once again fell in love with nearly every dress she tried on. However, this time one dress stood out and so we went off to lunch to discuss it more fully before making a final decision.

As we sat enjoying our lunch we wondered if we had just seen the perfect dress none of us were completely sure and so we decided that after shop number five, the last on our list for that day, we would go back and ask to try on the dress again and see then how we all felt .

The next shop was like something out of a movie. We were met by a very beautifully dressed, friendly member of staff. She directed us to a waiting area and went off to get our bridal consultant. My daughter whispered to me “Mum, this is going to be too expensive, let’s just try on a few and then leave”.At that moment and before I could reply, the bridal consultant arrived and we were ushered through to the area where we would see her in her chosen dresses.

All around us sat other brides to be with their families and friends along with their consultants making choices. Each of us in our own beautifully laid out area, in a huge room. We all sat looking at each other were all thinking the same thing “expensive”. After making her selection from a computer my daughter was ushered in to the changing room. Her consultant sat with her and went through her selection and asked her why she had chosen each dress, what she had liked and why. Then she suggested that whilst they wait for her dresses to arrive from the storeroom, she would bring her a dress that she thought she might like based on their discussion.

When she stepped out from the changing room I felt a surge rather like an electrical charge go through me, I later found out that we all had felt exactly the same, and suddenly we were all feeling quite emotional. She had found “the one “.What were we going to do, the place looked and felt ridiculously expensive, we had a budget, doesn’t everyone? No dress was ever going to make her look or feel the same. My daughter was smiling from ear to ear as she read my thoughts. ”It’s okay”, she said “we set down a budget before I selected the dresses I was going to try.” I was so pleased that both the shop and my daughter had been practical enough to consider this. Had they not, the chances are that I would have felt I had to try to get her what she really wanted. That potentially could have caused problems and all of that was avoided by common sense and good communication.

So my daughter has her dress and I have had reinforced to me the things that we should always try to remember. Have a plan, know your limits when it comes to financial matters communicate clearly with those around you, never judge a book by its cover, be flexible enough to listen to what others have to say and how having a good attitude and the right experience always counts. All of this I knew, yet had simply let fly out the window as I got drawn in to and carried away by the whole finding the perfect dress experience. Thankfully, my daughter, her sisters and friends managed to get it right. Fortunately, thanks to them I found that I had been wrong about it being a nice experience. It was a really wonderful experience and one I was truly grateful to be able to partake in. Now all we need to do is find the bridesmaid dresses.

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.

 
 

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.