Sometimes you’re thrown a curve, a big one.
And suddenly, like it or not, you must adapt.
At times like these, plans (and dreams) must be set aside, temporarily, or even permanently.
Sudden, sharp curves can happen to your team and company. They can happen to you or your family.
My husband and I had the sudden, sharp curve experience in recent weeks.
He’d been told for years to put off probable back surgery “as long as you can.”
Suddenly, that “as long as possible” time was all used up.
Gary needed major back surgery, and quickly, or the possible consequences were pretty extreme, and frightening.
The good news, now, is that our sudden adventure had a good outcome.
And yours, if you have a one in your team, company, or life, can, too.
In case you can benefit from our experience, here’s a summary of the lessons we learned (or were reminded of) in handling sudden change, of any type:
1. Hear, see, feel the facts
There is often a period of disbelief that accompanies the need for sudden change.
You may not want to hear, see, or feel what is suddenly becoming very clear.
Don’t fight it.
Take the information in as fully as you can.
Try to understand what is true, rather than what you wish were true.
It often helps to have a good sounding board, or a “second pair of ears” to listen to the information you’re receiving in often emotion-filled times of sudden change.
2. Heed the facts
This is no time for head in the sand behavior, and avoidance of what’s happening.
Face the circumstances, as they are.
Take them head on.
You often have to make decisions quickly in situations of sudden change.
And your decision goal may have to change from “maximize gain” to ”minimize loss.”
Nobody wants to make decisions like that, but sometimes, well, in business and life, it happens.
Deal with it.
We had to find a good surgeon fast, for the possible consequences if we didn’t were extreme.
4. Take action
Deciding is one thing.
Taking action is another.
And “action” does not include worrying. Sorry, but it doesn’t.
Worrying is an exercise in imagination.
It doesn’t solve anything, unless…and this is the one good thing worrying can do for you…you focus it and use it to help you anticipate and plan actions to prevent things that might go wrong.
This is where your Plan B (or C) might come from.
Beyond that, worrying is an exercise in often-extreme, often negative imagination.
And usually, that exercise of over-imagination is flat out wrong.
As Tom Petty notes, “Sure as night follows day, most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
Get on with it.
5. Simplify, simplify, simplify
All this sudden change turns your world upside down for a while, and makes your priorities very clear.
It also forces you to radically simplify your life, getting down to the bare bones and brass tacks basics.
Let things go that can go.
You can pick them up again when you have more time, attention and energy.
Or, through this process of radical simplification, you may find you’re ready to let some things go permanently.
It’s like a hurricane that blows through and carries off anything that’s not tied down, anything that isn’t a top priority.
It forces you to rethink your uses of time, energy and other precious resources.
That’s not all bad, frankly.
It’s sudden clarity and clearing that you didn’t seek, didn’t want, but have.
It may make your work or life better when this is all over.
6. You’ll get back on track as soon as you can…and often, that may not be as fast as you’d hoped
Progress-producing tools, if you have them, such as your vision, mission, values, goals and plans are helpful when you’re trying to get back on track, after the unwanted adventure is over.
Of course, the world looks different now, beyond the sudden change. And what you thought you wanted before may not be what you want currently.
Start with the vision, values, plans and other tools of focus and progress that you have.
Reengage, recommit, and become reenergized and refocused by them - if they’re still relevant.
And if they’re out of date, this is a good time to regain purpose, build focus and commitment to what counts for you now.
Use these tasks to reinvigorate as you get rolling again.
7. Remember that progress, and success, may not look like what you previously expected
Progress sometimes has its own ways, and its own pace.
And progress – and success – may not look like what you thought they would.
Keep track of what counts.
Look for small signs of progress…whatever they are now…as you create forward motion and momentum again.
You can make your way back on track…and perhaps, create an even better one…after work or life throws you sudden curves.