Looking at new chapters as a change for the better

I read quite a bit and always have. Each work of fiction has a flow and a story, and it just keeps moving, whether you’re willing to participate in that continuing story or not. That movement represents change, and it is usually reflected by the change of chapters as the book continues through its story.

Sometimes you find a section or moment in a book that you really like, and you can stop and settle into a moment and enjoy it for a while. You can read a passage over several times and enjoy what’s happening with the characters in that particular moment, but the story keeps moving regardless. As a reader, you could stop right there and never read another word, but you would miss the rest of the story as it continues to naturally unfold. You must be willing to accept change for the story to continue.

Changes in life are like the turnings of chapters in a book

Life is similar but much more complicated. You sometimes land in a moment you really enjoy, but if you stay too long in that moment, you lose the rest of the story and the flow of what will come out of that moment and what it ultimately means. You can live in that moment for a while, but life changes and flows, just like the unfolding story in a book, and we must change with it. The chapters of life keep turning whether you like it or not.

The reality is that you are a character in your own story and in the stories of others. You must move along with the flow of the story. You have influence and control over many of your circumstances, but there are other circumstances that you can simply watch happen as if you are reading the stories of characters in a book. Whether it’s a career change or a move to a new location or a death of someone close to you or even simply a child going to school or college, the chapters of life keep turning, and as the pages turn, you must adjust to those new chapters and the moving story. In the end, the chapter will always turn, and that’s not bad. It just is.

How well do you handle the change of chapters?

How well do you handle these types of adjustments? When a chapter of life turns to the next, does it overwhelm you? Do you breathe a deep sigh, mourn the loss of the last chapter, but then pick yourself up and move into what’s coming next? Or do you get stuck, hanging onto the old, hoping it will return, struggling to figure out how to face tomorrow? Do you try to re-read and re-live the simpler moments of your life, hoping they will come back, trying to turn back chapters? Or do you move with the flow of your story, knowing that the story must continue?

If you watch over time, you will realize that the change of chapters looks different depending on your place in life. Depending on where you stand at any given moment, you will have a different perspective on what is happening. Often when you’re younger, you may get a little more emotional or freaked out as your life shifts, but if you’re older and you have been through some of these transitions already, you might be able to gather yourself in a moment of maturity and realize that this is how it happens and know that it will all be fine if you just weather the storm of emotion that comes along with the change.

The changing of a chapter in life signifies growth

More and more, I find that it’s important to be grateful for the next chapter as it comes. It’s part of being human, and if the world around us and our context doesn’t change, we don’t grow. Growing is a key part to being human, but growing is not always easy. Growth comes with an ebb and flow in a very natural way, like a moving story.

Don’t be afraid of the changing of chapters — be grateful and thankful that you can still grow. You will resist change — it’s only natural — and you will eventually lose that fight. The chapters will change. Take a deep breath, know that you can handle anything that comes your way, and grow with the change. Shift, adjust, learn, and step into what’s coming next. Being human is a constant cycle of seeking out and enjoying the moments of warmth and connection and then jumping into the rush of change and struggle with courage and anticipation as it comes your way.

You can prepare for the changing of chapters in life

Prepare for the change of chapters. In relationships, I find myself mentally and emotionally preparing for whatever moment I know will someday arrive when I will have to say goodbye to my spouse, my child, my parent, my friend, even my dog. It’s a strange mental exercise that I think is an emotional defense mechanism to help avoid being completely overwhelmed when the moment arrives. It’s not an exact science, and I know it won’t fully insulate me from the actual emotion that comes when things shift in a relationship, but by projecting (and in a way, practicing) that emotional and mental process in advance, I attempt to prepare myself to some degree for that moment and maybe work through it in a less intense and more healthy manner.

Also, in your career, prepare for changes. I encourage you to look ahead, be intentional and think about who you are and want to be, what you’re doing with your time and your skills, how to improve and grow, and who can help you along that path. For more on this idea, check out Jon Acuff’s book Do Over. Just like a personal savings account that you fill up over time at your bank, Acuff explains how to establish a Career Savings Account to help you prepare for the future and the change that is inevitable as the chapters of your career turn. I encourage you to check out his book and start building your own Career Savings Account.

Be both introspective and grateful as a chapter changes

Accepting change takes perspective. When you’re in the midst of change, you can develop perspective as the story unfolds, helping you learn more about what’s to come and about why things happened in the past. Your perspective must expand to include memories and lessons learned in the past while glimpsing the future all in one moment. But when your perspective expands to include both the old chapter and the new and you begin to have more insights into the broader story, be thankful for the new.

Reflect, enjoy and share the chapters in your life

Be grateful for your story and that you get to take part in the stories of others, and be willing help someone else adjust into a new chapter that is coming their way. Be generous in your sharing of your stories with others and in helping them understand that the turning of chapters is natural and healthy. And, if possible, take a deep breath, reflect and enjoy the changing of chapters with someone you love, knowing that the moment of connection and warmth with them will be that part of the cycle you can look back on right before you jump headfirst into what’s next.

Originally published at www.blueshirtproject.com on October 26, 2015.