In times of cascading change, we often find ourselves trying hard to stay in control.
While the reality is that we never actually control the future, we mostly go around believing that we can. When there’s a sudden, unexpected pivot in our lives, the first thing we usually do is try to line everything back up the way it was.
This makes perfect sense, it’s in our nature. But boy, is it exhausting.
And it doesn’t work.
In this culture we tend to jump into action right away, long before we’ve truly processed the change. Trying to set a new course and make plans and organize everything too soon just ends up being defensive.
Reactive action has no legs – it can’t get us very far.
It works much better if we spend a minute grounding and digesting the shock of the change before we try to fix anything.
We can do this in a lot of different ways. Some of us need to talk things out with others. Some need to be alone. But all of us need a little time to make the adjustment.
My suggestion for giving ourselves the transition time we need – after the shock and before the next trajectory is clear – is to change the way we think about our goals for awhile.
Instead of focusing on the outcomes, we can shift our attention to the processes until we get some clarity about a new healing direction.
If our goal is to get the house cleaned today, an outcome, but the kids dug in the yard all afternoon and we ended up filling in a lot of holes instead – at the end of the day that unmet goal can feel like a lead weight.
After we collect enough of these failed goals, it can start feeling like we’re dragging around heavy chains. As if things weren’t already exhausting enough.
To give yourself the time to learn what’s best for you and your family in this pivot, try temporarily shifting your daily goals off of any particular outcomes and onto the processes themselves.
In the case of getting your house clean, let go of “a clean house” and instead just focus on doing a few small, easy chores. That way, if you do 3 tasks like make your bed, de-clutter the living room and put the dishes away – at the end of the day you’ll have actually met your goal. And the house will be cleaner.
When I was in radiation treatment for cancer, I was too damn tired to EVER clean my whole house. But I learned to shift my effort onto the process of cleaning and make micro-moves every day. Some days I could do more, some less, but this way every day was a win.
I started watering one plant a day, alternating through them so they all got watered once a week. As I felt better, I would fix up one whole room of the house about every other day, and that kept everything pretty clean all the time.
It’s surprising how much actually gets done when you make this shift. Not only does it buy you time to process big changes, but it also helps you hop over any resistance you have to doing unpleasant tasks. And it builds consistency, which is key to all real transformation.
If you want to surf the waves of chaotic change (versus getting tossed around in them!), let go of trying to control an uncontrollable future, and concentrate on what’s right in front of you – what you can do right now.
Also, it’s worth noting that caring for ourselves doesn’t require perfect conditions.
Self-care actually improves all conditions, even in micro-doses.