adapting to change after a life changing event

Adapting to change after a life changing event

We all have experiences that change us, affect how we see the world and ultimately shape who we become.  There’s a saying that people never change, and while I do believe that deep down we are who we are, I also do think that there are life changing events that can make us shift our priorities and alter our behavior as a result.


As an example, we have all had FOMO.  I was late to the bandwagon of even knowing what FOMO meant.  (For anyone still not on it, it stands for the “fear of missing out”)

I think everyone at some point in time experiences this, especially nowadays with the huge role that social media plays in our lives.  When I was younger, I know I had feeling/thoughts of:

“Where is everyone hanging out”

“What are they doing”

“I bet what other people are doing is more fun than what I’m doing”

“I’m never in the right place at the right time”

“I’m ALWAYS missing out on everything!”

As I’ve gotten older I no longer care about what anyone else is doing; it no longer matters if other people appear to be having more fun; I no longer wonder if there’s something more appealing out there to do.

However, I still have FOMO. Just a different kind.  As someone who is single, and recently who’s parents (yup both of them) have had health issues and major surgeries, I now have FOMO about THEM.

FOMO that they won’t be there if/when I get married.

FOMO that they won’t meet their future grandkids.

FOMO that I won’t be able to take another family trip with them

FOMO that they won’t be able to come to visit me again.

It’s crazy how life has a way of showing you what matters, not just in general, but what matters to YOU.

What are life changing events?

Life changing events include anything that alters your perception of who you are and your priorities. For instance, getting married and moving to a different zip code; having kids; dealing with healthcare issues or caring for a sick loved one; changing jobs or being forced into situations that you aren’t prepared for.

But Changing Your Life to Reflect Your New Priorities Can Be Tough.

When your priorities change, the way you see the world and approach your day to day life can shift as well.  This then can change your interactions with your colleagues, friends, and family.  The people in your life can get very confused as to what’s going on with you and why you’re acting differently.  Then you’re presented with the issue of trying to explain yourself to everyone.

As an example from my own life, after my Mom’s illness, all I wanted to do was spend time with her.  I also wanted to change my life so that I didn’t miss opportunities and so that I made the most of everything I already had.  The way I spent my free time changed;  the conversations I wanted to have with friends changed–I no longer wanted to talk about menial everyday drama and gossip… I wanted to talk about and make new life changes around my goals, items on my bucket list, ways to better my life and all the new things I wanted to learn and try.

So How Can You Navigate This Shift?

1. Be prepared to lose friends

This is probably the most common side effect of adapting to change and adopting new priorities.  Unless the people in your life can accept how you’ve changed, you will start distancing yourself from them.  It won’t even be intentional; it’s just automatic.  When you no longer have common ground, it’s natural to grow apart.

It’s ok for this to happen.  Not everyone in your life is meant to stay for your whole life.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend; it doesn’t mean that they’re bad friends.  It just means you’re different enough to drift apart.

2. Don’t force or guilt yourself into situations that no longer matter to you

I’ve done this so many times in the past year, I’ve lost count.  Out of guilt, I’ve hung out with people I didn’t want to, I’ve engaged in conversations that brought me nothing but mental torture and I’ve spent time doing tasks that I no longer cared about.

I did those things as a way of trying to maintain relationships and keep up with some of my old priorities.  But at the end of the day, nothing was maintained. Those old priorities were gone. All I accomplished was to waste my time.

On that note…

3. Don’t waste time — make the changes you want to make

Life’s so short.  I can’t repeat that enough.  I don’t just say that because of my personal experiences with my family.  As a physician, I see all kinds of nonsense during my hospital shifts.  Patients my age diagnosed with cancer; those younger than me get into accidents and losing limbs; or, people my parents’ age passing away unexpectedly.

We always think we have time to do the things we want.  And we do.  But, we also don’t. You likely already feel a sense of urgency to do, see, and experience things that you’ve been wanting.  So don’t ignore it or push it away.  

Don’t let yourself get back to that point where you think “you’ll do it later”.  Instead, see this as a wake-up call and an opportunity for you to take initiative towards doing all those things you’ve been wanting to do.  This doesn’t have to be a huge sudden change that comes with fireworks and balloons.  Just have a daily commitment to yourself to do what you care about most.

adapting to change

For instance, if you’re thinking about starting a blog, then come home after work one day and just start writing.  If you want to start a business, start your research. If you want to take a huge trip from your bucket list, then pick a destination and look up some fun things to do there.  Don’t delay life.  Just get started on whatever it is that actually matters to you.

4. Take time for yourself

oahu, hawaii
Contemplating life in Hawaii, looking over the coast of Oahu 🙂

With your change in mindset and your changes in friendship statuses and relationships, you can find yourself feeling lonely, unsure and confused about…well everything.  Don’t forget to be nice to yourself during this time. Take time to figure things out; don’t blame yourself for how you may have changed.  You, yourself, are adjusting, and adapting to changes, so give yourself a break.

5. Remember self-care

Hand in hand with taking time for yourself is remembering self-care.  This may seem redundant, but something I’ve come to realize more recently is that it’s not so much the amount of time you take for yourself, its what you do with that time.

In other words, take time for yourself to take care of yourself.  Take yourself out to dinner, give yourself pep talks, put on a face mask a couple of times a week, order that dessert you’ve been craving and have conversations with people who understand what you’re going through.  And, at the end of the day, if you’re still struggling to figure it out, seek out professional help.  Having a therapist, even temporarily, is, in my opinion, invaluable.  It doesn’t make you crazy.  It makes you proactive for reaching out and protecting your sanity.

Have you gone through something that shifted your priorities? Have you had to adapt to change after a life-changing event? Anything you would add to this list? Leave your comments below!

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