Changing Course

Changing careers, life focus, redirecting goals and objectives, are among the most difficult tasks you can face as a man. Even if your change is by choice, you can experience depression, sadness, guilt, fear, remorse, anxiety and uncertainty.[1] When a big change in life is ahead, the most common pitfall that ensnares men is the failure to have any thoughtful plan to navigate it. A plan helps you think through the ramifications of change, lessening possible pitfalls and surprises, and giving greater confidence through each situation. Though many changes involve unpredictable circumstances, there is always an opportunity to write out a process to make changing course more manageable.   

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

Marking the map. Begin by defining the change. What elements of your life and family are going to be on a new course? A new job may involve a new boss, a move to a new city and state, new schools for the children, new house, selling your current house, a change to your spouse’s job or circumstances. Write out the various circumstances you’ll go through. Begin to look for ways to maximize the elements you can control. You may not be able to avoid a move, but you can control the house you’ll buy, and to some extent schools and neighborhoods, for instance. Marking the map of change may turn significant challenges into opportunities. 

During this time it’s also prudent to seek counsel. The Bible offers instruction on making wise decisions. Consider talking about your upcoming changes with trusted family or friends, your Pastor, or someone who has experience in the direction you are going. 

Anxiety and depression related to change often occurs when the scope looks insurmountable. Change appears as a wall in front of you that you cannot see beyond, or know how to climb it. Research shows that your language and thinking can change–you may begin to think in “absolute” terms.[2] “There’s nothingI can do.” “This is going completely destroyme.” Marking the map helps to define change as a series of choices you can make, versus an external circumstance that has total control over you. 

Going turn by turn. Write out a timeline for change that includes steps you’ll need to take, in as much of an order as you can chart. Big changes become manageable when you begin to see it as a series of steps. What must you finish before change occurs? What can you leave undone, or for your successor? What must be in place for you to be able to embrace the change and move forward? 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6

Commercial airline pilots have among the most complex of jobs. They manage their flight time, weights, speeds, altitudes, weather issues and passengers for profitability and safety. They control a multi-million dollar aircraft. They lead a staff team in the air. That’s why all pilots are drilled constantly in a specific series of checklists. A checklist for flight planning. A checklist before takeoff. A checklist before landing. And if something goes wrong, there is a checklist for each and every eventuality. The lesson is this: When you face a complex situation, a step-by-step guide is invaluable in helping you remember what to do, and when to do it. 

Arriving at your destination. Once change has happened, take moments to relax, and to celebrate. Don’t underestimate the stress and strain that big changes can take on you personally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Find an opportunity to rest and reenergize. And take time to celebrate that you’ve made it through a difficult season. Arriving at the result of change can also allow you to recapture a degree of control you may have lost in a move, a new job, a medical diagnosis. Also take the opportunity to look forward a develop a plan for the next phase of life, whether or not it includes more changes.

Research suggests that you may make up to 27 significant choices each day.[3] That’s 733,618 in your lifetime. Yet less than 20 of these, over the decades of your existence, are truly significant in affecting the direction of your life—your college major, a career change, who to marry, buying a house, or when and how to start a family. The fact that you make choices daily may minimize the planning and thought required to make a choice that will affect more than your day, but rather the coming months or years. Big decisions, however, take forethought, planning, consultation and organization. The result are manageable changes with more confidence and less stress.