Six Strategic 'F's for Mastering Loss and Change
January 9, 2009
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1) Familiar. Grapple with the anxiety, rage, hopelessness or sadness in letting go of the familiar role or predictable past. The big question: Who am I? Remember, sometimes your former niche of success now has you mostly stuck in the ditch of excess. There's a critical crossroad ahead.

2) Future. Clearly the horizon appears cloudy and threatening, lacking direction and clarity. Just because your past or traditional roles and responsibilities may be receding doesn't mean you can't transfer your experience and skills into new challenging arenas.

3) Face. Some loss of self-esteem and self-worth is all too common, especially when our life puzzle has been broken up other than by one's own hand. Shame, humiliation, guilt, diminished confidence are frequent early traveling partners on a profound transitional journey.

4) Focus. If you can honestly grapple and grieve the first three "F"s, then you are engaged in a productive brooding, if not magical incubation, process. At minimum, you will affirm, "I may not like the cards that have been dealt, but how do I make the best of my reality right now." And you'll likely start hatching a new perspective with, if not crystal clear targets, then an intuitive, crystal ball enlightenment. Suddenly this Stress Doc mantra starts resonating: "I don't know where I'm going...I just think I know how to get there!"

5) Feedback. Now you can share new insights or plans with others. Getting input will help sort out the wheat from the chaff. Or, some TLC (what I call, "tender loving criticism" and "tough loving care") may challenge you to expand or simplify the complexity of the problem engaged. In times of rapid or daunting change, trustworthy feedback helps us remember who we are; that our basic, core self remains intact despite being shaken by unsettling forces.

6) Faith. Having the courage to grapple with these "F"s now yields a strength to understand what in your present life rests in your control and what lies beyond. Going through this process means strengthening the emotional muscles necessary for dealing with uncertain and unpredictable twists and turns on life’s journey.

Some will call on a transcendent source of faith: a higher power, whether a religious or spiritual force or the group synergy of a team, family or some communal entity. (For example, 12-step groups provide both sources - turning over one's helplessness to God and, one day at a time, being supported in new beliefs and behaviors by the higher power of collective consciousness and group sharing.)