This article is an invitation to enhance your resilience by reflecting on a previous work-life change experience. Get clear on strengths you already have and increase awareness of what may no longer be useful in the context of your current change.
Have you ever experienced sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? The sudden pain, commonly known as “brain freeze,” is an automatic response to the sudden drop in temperature triggered by eating or drinking something very cold.
Brain freeze is designed to protect the blood supply to the brain. Significant work-life changes may also trigger protective responses.
Follow the three steps below for more clarity on your personal responses and how they may help or hinder you during your current work-life transition.
- Recall (2-3 minutes)
- Reflect (3 minutes)
- Renew (3-5 minutes)
Step 1: Recall
Recall a significant change in your life. Choose an experience that felt demanding, but now feels fairly complete. Don’t begin with your most difficult change.
Describe this experience by making some notes or writing a few paragraphs. Use the questions below as a guide.
- What was the change about?
- What areas of your life were impacted?
- Who was involved?
Step 2: Reflect
Now that you have summarized what happened, it’s time to reflect on your experience with the benefit of hindsight. Is there a name or image that comes to mind when you think back on that experience from today’s perspective? If so, write it down.
A phrase, image, or metaphor can help to capture the qualities of the experience that stand out for you. If nothing comes to mind, don’t worry. Move ahead to reflecting on the experience by choosing questions from the list below. Feel free to come up with your own questions.
- What did you do that worked, or you feel good about?
For instance, may you got a result you wanted, or you acted in alignment with the things that are important to you.
- Who or what was helpful?
Examples might be people that provided informational or emotional support, or things you did to reduce overwhelm.
- What happened that surprised you? What did you do that didn’t work?
Examples might be outcomes you didn’t expect, or things that weren’t visible to you due to external events, or because of other people’s decisions, not having resources, or a “blind spot.”
Next it’s time to choose what to take forward.
Step 3: Renew
Bring to mind your current change (or one aspect of it, if it’s a complex change).
As you review your answers to Step 2 above, consider what might apply to your current change?
- What do your actions or choices tell you about what was important to you at that time?
- What strengths are demonstrated by what you did?
For example, if one of the things that worked before was to consult with trusted colleagues, that might signify relationship building as one of your strengths.
Note down some of the values and strengths that you want to carry forward to your current change.
Next, looking back at what didn’t work, choose one thing that feels particularly relevant to this change that you would like to be different this time.
It might be something to stop doing or let go of, something to do differently, or something new to do.
What resources might be helpful?
List anything that might make it easier to implement what you want to do.
Awareness of your values and strengths is particularly important during challenging changes. By taking the time to reflect, you are taking an important step in this direction.
The change you are experiencing may be similar to brain freeze, a sudden shock to your system, or it may be a more predictable or ongoing experience of change.
Dealing with change is a lifelong skill. Taking even 10 or 15 minutes to complete the three simple steps of Recall, Reflect, and Renew described above will enhance your resilience in the face of this and future changes.
Jennifer Bradley helps professionals get unstuck and move forward in their career and work life. She offers individual coaching and consulting, leads workshops, and writes about personal and professional transitions.