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What to Do When Change Is out of Your Control


What to Do When Change Is out of Your Control

All’s good when you choose change. Moving around the world, working for a new company, buying a home and having a baby are exciting and joyful occasions. However, there are those times when change and choice are not in the same sentence. Life feels remarkably out of your control. Then what?

This week my life was disrupted, and the ripples are becoming not so gentle waves impacting my business, family, and day-to-day attitude. Not acceptable. However, I know I’m not alone. I’ll bet you have some sh*t going on in your life that’s creating waves as well.

For years, out of control change was one of the drivers for people to reach out to me for coaching. It’s nice to think that everyone is proactively creating their future with a coach but in truth, it’s often crisis that leads to action. 

I’m never a fan of overused platitudes but I agree, “the best way out is always through.” Thanks, Robert Frost. I know it stinks to hear it when you’re in the midst of change that’s out of your control, but there is an “other side.” You’ll get there.

Sound familiar?…

Forced From Comfort to Crazy

Life is good. Comfortable enough that you regularly dare yourself to stretch and take risks. Then IT happens.

No need for me to write what your IT is, you know IT. You’re blindsided, stressed and unsure of what to do next. Options abound yet none of them sound good. You try your hardest to wake up from your bad dream and don’t want to accept that this is your life, and it’s time to deal with IT.

Chances are, you know that panicking is not a part of the solution, but it’s where most people start when unexpected change hits their life. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I’m right there with you.

Which road you take when change is out of your control is like living a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Some of the paths in front of you lead to a terrible dead end and others to a much more satisfying conclusion. The beauty of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel is that if you don’t like the ending, you can go back and start over. The same applies to how you react and respond to unwanted change.

Which road do you choose to follow when change is out of your control?

Three Paths When Life Takes You from Comfort to Crazy

I’ve been working in change management since the early 1990’s, and I’ve seen three consistent paths emerge when change strikes. In fact, many people meander down all three until making it out the other side.

1) Ask Everyone You Know What To Do

Usually, before the ask, this path also includes some whining and moaning about how horrible the situation is. Truthfully, complaining is okay as long as you keep it time bound. If you never leave the woe is me stage, no amount of advice seeking and wisdom gathering is going to help.


  • Energy wasted on commiserating takes away energy from overcoming andstepping forward into what’s next.
  • Everyone has a course of action that’s opposite of what you’re gut is telling you. Oh no!
  • Letting someone else determine your fate.


  • When you feel lost, aren’t you supposed to ask for directions?
  • People who have been in a similar circumstance can share their experience.
  • You won’t feel alone in your misery.


Asking for input is a smart move to ensure you’re considering all of your options. However, you still need to choose another path to continue your journey; it doesn’t end here. Keep moving to path #3 – one of action, commitment and embracing the unknown. It’s tempting to ask forever and pretend that IT will simply go away, but it won’t.

2) Retreat and Hide

When IT strikes and something is out of your control, it’s tempting to run away. We’ve all read stories of sailors who would go beneath the deck to ride out the storm but it’s a mirage of safety. In actuality, it puts them at the mercy of the storm. When you hide from inevitable change, despite the fact that it’s out of your control, it doesn’t stop it and may, in fact, put you in harms way.


  • Hiding gives away all of your remaining power. You are not powerless.
  • Wallowing is painful and stress-inducing.
  • There are some changes that you can’t wait out. This is one of them.


  • When you’re alone, it gives you time to gather your thoughts and composure.
  • You can tap into your inner knower without a lot of outside noise.
  • No hasty moves, you’re busy hiding.


Retreating does not have to be the same as doing everything you can to hide from the change (which is impossible.) Use your retreat to gain perspective and begin to formulate a plan forward. PS. Your change journey doesn’t end here either. It’s time for you to step down path #1 or (hopefully) #3.

3) Move Through Anger, Sadness, and Frustration to Productivity

You’ve made it here, the final chapter. It’s one filled with action and empowerment instead of victimhood. You may still be angry and disrupted, but you’re in control of what happens next. Weigh your options and start moving forward. You’re done with the “I don’t know” cycle and are entering the “I choose” phase.


  • You may be unsure of what to do.
  • You may choose a less than ideal path forward.
  • You don’t love where you land.


  • You refuse to be at the mercy of the wind and are taking a proactive approach – kicking in your personal leadership!
  • As you act, you’ll get to see and experience the impact of your decisions. You’re moving forward – no wallowing.
  • If you’re not happy or satisfied with what’s next, you can make another choice. You are in control.


This is the only path through to the other side of the change. Standing still won’t get you anywhere. Make a choice and go with it even when there’s no perfect solution. Don’t forget, every place you move will open up new possibilities.

If you’re feeling paralyzed and don’t know what to do next, check out my eCourse Get Unstuck and Choose to Move. It’s specifically designed to help you figure out your next step when you are on the edge of change.

What tips can you share for when life’s changes are out of your control?

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