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.

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Listen and Learn.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King.

We all like to be heard. What we think and feel we want to be able to express to others and when we can do it freely we feel better and happier. We all recognize this and appreciate how important it is, so why when we have all this understanding and insight do we frequently fail to truly listen to what others want to say?
Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too busy or under too much pressure to waste time listening to what someone else thinks as we believe we already know the best decision or outcome? Or perhaps, we are too focused on what we need to do next that we simply do not take the time to listen before moving on to our next task or job. We just want to be able to tick off that we have dealt with the matter and move on.
The problem with this strategy is that more often than not we haven’t dealt with anything successfully. All we have really done by communicating in this manner is to potentially create more stress for the future.
Too often when we think that we are communicating we are in fact just barking out orders to others or we are defending ourselves from perceived criticism from others. This sort of communication can end up with us going round and round in circles trying to make our point and failing to do so. All that happens is that we end up feeling more and more exasperated, fed up and no further forward.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives and the solution to all the frustration and angst that this type of behavior causes us it really simple and straightforward. If we feel that we are not being heard rather than shouting louder and louder we need to stop and listen to what those around us are saying before we can then calmly answer them and express how we are feeling. Good communication requires all parties to be silent at some point and listen to what the others are saying before they actually respond. If we try to get our view over without paying attention to their views we are simply wasting our time. Seldom has anyone ever personally achieved anything constructive or made themselves feel better just by overriding the views of those close to them and imposing their own on any situation.
If we want to be happy, successful and content then it is simply essential to be a good listener. When we spend time listening to others they respect us more and will in turn spend time listening to us when we need them to. We can learn so much from hearing what those close to us have to say and that can help us to grow closer to those we love and to grow stronger as a person. As American psychologist Karl A Menninger once said:
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Sometimes when we feel that we are not being listened to, we ourselves are also not actually listening. The only way to resolve or at least attempt to resolve this type of situation, is to stop trying to get our own point across and spend time hearing what those we believe are ignoring us, are really saying .If once we have listened to them we still feel they are not letting us respond or take our view in to account we need to make a decision about whether they are the right people to surround ourselves with. Either way just by listening we gain knowledge and that always makes us stronger.
If we find that we are the ones who have allowed ourselves to get in to the bad habit of not truly listening and communicating well to those around us, we simply need to decide to stop and change how we have been responding to others and handling things.
It is not difficult as we all have the ability inside us to be able to make such positive changes when we can see the benefit of doing so and know that by changing we will feel better and more in control. We all must learn how to make positive choices in life if we desire happiness. None of us should stick with bad habits or poor strategies that do not work well simply because they take time and a bit of effort to change. That is simply daft and most definitely not a recipe for success. Being able to be flexible enough to adapt and change makes life happier, as we learn what works best for us and for those around us. As I always say though, the choice and the power to make positive life changes lies solely within ourselves. No one can do it for us and we can hold no one responsible other than ourselves if we don’t change when we need to. We all need to learn to make changes today, even if only small positive, ones for a happier tomorrow.

Decisions,Decisions.

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Sometimes we can all find it hard to make a decision about something and we can go backwards and forwards in our thinking process and feel we are getting nowhere. This can make us feel stressed and uneasy and can cause others who are waiting on our decision to get frustrated and upset by us. There is often a very practical reason for our minds to vacillate, it is simply seeking more information and whilst doing so is going back and forth trying to check it against what it already has had experience of and the past consequences from that. We can however train ourselves to make it a more efficient and faster process and in doing so avoid any unnecessary stress.
If you are being asked or need to make a decision about something and are finding it hard .The chances are as I have previously mentioned you actually just need to get a bit more information before being able to make your mind up. To simplify the process ask yourself what is stopping you from agreeing to do it or saying no? Has there ever been a time before you have had to make a similar decision and if so what did you learn from that? Use the answers to those simple questions to hone in on the specific areas of information or answers required to provide you with a clearer picture of what is the best thing for you to do. If it helps you to think more clearly simply write down your reasons before seeking the answers to them. Gather the information you require by doing a little further research and by chatting to people. Often these simple steps provide enough feedback for you to feel confident about saying yes or no.
However if you still feel uneasy about something after reviewing all the facts and information possible then simply do not agree to do it. Never allow yourself to be pushed in to agreeing to do something that does not sit comfortably with you. Sometimes it is fear that prevents you from trying something new and if that is the case seek help to get rid of it. Many times though your unconscious mind has picked up something negative that your conscious mind has not even seen yet. Too often I hear from people if only I had followed my instinct and not agreed to this or that .Your instinct is there for a reason. It is telling you that something is not quite right and asking you to pause for a short while to find out more. Overriding that is to me the equivalent of ignoring an amber light. Sometimes when you do that you escape unscathed but other times you will find yourself in trouble. So pay attention to inner feelings. If you have made a decision that you later regret do not avoid thinking about it. Take any learning you need from it by looking at how it happened and how best to prevent it happening again.
At the end of the day we have to accept that we all have different personalities. Some people can go through life and fling themselves fully in to everything without apparent care and others hate to do anything new or take any responsibility. Most of us are somewhere in between both of these. Learn how you function best and allow yourself any necessary time without being stressed to do what is right for you and what you feel comfortable with.

Always have a purpose.

 

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Recently I have been very surprised to find the amount of energy you can suddenly find once you have found a purpose to do something. Having a purpose seems to provide us all with real motivation, drive and determination to tackle anything big or small. In our case despite being aware of this we had simply forgotten its phenomenal qualities and have been reminded of them quite by accident.

For many months now our large garage has been used as storage space for spare items. Items we no longer wanted but ones that we hadn’t  quite made up our minds about what to do with them.  We had simply moved them from the house out to the garage intending to deal with them when we had a spare moment but never quite finding that moment. Recently my Mum moved house and having no desire to take everything with her, selected what she wanted and then stored the rest in our garage for us to use or dispose of as we liked. Suddenly our garage was no longer just a bit untidy it was overflowing with stuff. We occasionally looked at it and discussed how we were going to tackle it but then would decide to leave it for another day. A day when we had more time or more energy or any other excuse we could think of. Days passed and these days turned in to weeks and then before we knew it we were a month later and still no attempt had been made to clear out the junk. It was always in the back of our minds that we had to make an effort to do it but we simply didn’t .I am sure that this probably would have continued for quite a while longer but for one thing happening. My husband bought a new car. Not a brand new car but a car that he had wanted to buy for quite some time. As he was excited he was now filled with the necessary energy, drive and enthusiasm to clear out the garage. The garage finally had a purpose and he now began to see it the way he wanted it to be, not the way it was. As he now had a purpose he found that he had motivation. Before long the garage was cleared. Stuff had been disposed of that really was of no further use and other better items had been given to charity to sell. We both felt better and it made us realise that despite pretending to ourselves that we were not bothered about the mess in the garage we actually had been. Knowing it was there and that we still had to deal with it had actually sapped our energy. Despite working very hard to achieve the new clean space, we found that instead of being exhausted as we had thought we would be, we had in fact more energy. The sense of achievement we both felt has spilled over in to other neglected areas. I am now tackling my wardrobe, which appears to be full of clothes I seldom or never wear. I can envisage a nice clear space where I can hang my things easily and actually see what I have available that I like. I am getting rid of stuff that has seen better days and have decided to sell the items that are good but that I simply never wear. Any money raised is going in to the Christmas fund. In my new energised state it is hard for me to understand why I have left it so long to tackle but truthfully I do not think I truly noticed it until now. I suspect that by clearing out the clutter in the garage my awareness of other areas of clutter has been raised. I think life is like that. If we find a reason to change something, tap in to a purpose that gives us direction, we can then see much more clearly all of the areas in our lives that need our attention.  Having a purpose provides us with the energy that we need as well as, the strength and desire to make any changes necessary to bring happiness and contentment in to our lives. Despite being glaringly simple really and very obvious it is all too often forgotten by us as we lead our busy lives. I was grateful to be reminded in such a pleasant way.

Learning how to react positively to stress.

 

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In life our reactions to everything can be improved upon the more we learn about ourselves and our ability to handle situations. Nothing is worth making yourself ill over and without putting in to place some sort of structure and strategy to deal with stressful situations people can and do get ill by allowing daily issues to overwhelm and control them

Every day in life we all can be faced by situations that could be considered stressful. Partly what enables us to be happy and relatively stress free is learning how best to distinguish what really is a priority and therefore needs to be dealt with and what can be left until we have more time or energy to deal with it. By consciously making decisions to prioritize the importance level of daily events we can in fact learn to control our stress levels. If we believe everything has the same high importance and must be dealt with immediately then we are creating a very high stress level situation for ourselves to have to cope with. That inability to distinguish between important and not so important can easily cause us to go in to overwhelm and then nothing really gets done. Things start to pile up and before we know it we feel close to a complete meltdown as the pressure to act builds.

So how to decide what needs to be dealt with first? I usually make my decisions based upon the likely impact that taking no immediate action would have and whether I feel comfortable enough delegating it or leaving it until later? I make daily lists up and number in the order in which I consider I need to get things done. Where possible I will delegate tasks that do not necessarily need my particular attention alone to others who may be free to help. It is also important to take time during the day to try to have at least five minutes peace. To be able to sit, have a drink to rehydrate, eat something, take a good few deep relaxing breaths and then start again. I have found that having short breaks actually helps me to be more efficient and effective in dealing with any issues that have need of my attention. A short break often allows me to get a different perspective on a problem and enables me to tackle any issues with renewed vigor. If I don’t fully understand something or I need a different opinion I ask someone I trust for their views  as that can often help me to clarify my own thoughts.

Despite all our best efforts at the end of the day there are sometimes some things which are not fully resolved, some things which need more time and effort to sort out and we just have to learn to be able to accept that too. Fretting and fussing about those types of issues will not alter how quickly they can be effectively dealt with. Some things just need time and patience and it is important to learn how to recognize when you have done as much as you can and then to decide to stop worrying and, just wait and see what if anything is required next.

All of these techniques take conscious effort and practice but the end results are well worth it. As Hans Selye rightly says “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”.

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.

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?