The soaring rhetoric from presidential candidates has been about the concept of change – and the electorate is energized by the buzzword. But is the idea of change really so new? In 1944, the Republican governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, ran for President against three-term incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt on the slogan “It’s time for a change.” Although not using the specific word, John F. Kennedy, in 1960, promised change with “Let’s get America moving again.” In the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan emphasized the importance and challenge of individual citizens initiating action, saying, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” In his 1989 farewell address, looking back on his years in office, Reagan said, “We meant to change a Nation, and instead we changed a world.” In 1992, one of Bill Clinton’s themes was “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” and he used the word change 10 times in his nomination speech.
Our concern here about being agents of change is more personal and aimed at you, members of the Sandwich Generation. Have your growing children moved out, leaving a void in your life that begs to be filled? Are there significant changes going on with your aging parents that affect you directly and often? Or are you in the midst of a mid-life transition yourself and uncertain about how or in what direction to navigate?
You have no real choice but to let go of the past when change is outside of your control or inevitable. And much more important than what happens to you is how you handle the situation. Regardless of the specific issues you are presently facing – personally or with your family in flux – use some of the following tips to help guide your way:
1. It is often said that history is prologue. As you look back in review, how have you dealt with other major changes in your life? Think about what has worked in the past. Take the specific strategies that you learned from those experiences and, once again, apply the most effective ones.
2. Look at the many ways you can continue to build on your internal and external assets at this time. Evaluate your basic character strengths and how they have benefited you in other circumstances. Are you fiercely curious and determined to find a solution, no matter what? Discover the community resources, such as caregiver programs or support groups, that will help in your decision making process.
3. Set some long-range goals about what you want to accomplish, as well as short-term objectives that will help you get there. These concrete plans provide the basic foundation and parameters for change. As you successfully move forward step by step, your self-confidence will grow. This, plus incremental ongoing actions and a positive attitude, will motivate you to stay on track and ultimately reach your goals.
4. Recognize the importance of support. Discussions with friends and family can clarify your needs as you work through this process of change. In addition, getting a second and objective opinion – from, for example, a family therapist, gerontologist or life coach – will provide you with further insight, direction and encouragement.
5. Remember to relax and have fun as you bring balance to what is a challenging or difficult situation. Have an open mind and be creative. Invite your family into the process. Research data shows that people are more committed to the outcome of a situation when they are actively involved in the course of action.
In the midst of this hotly contested political campaign, all of the candidates seem to have now joined the change bandwagon. Talk is easy, but actually making change is much more complicated – and when serving the public good, it’s essential to also walk the walk.
So consider yourself right in sync. In the midst of the present major change, discover what is most important at this time in your life. And in keeping with the Buddhist concept of change, remember that change can only come from within. Rely on your wisdom and past experience. As you give support to your family members who are in transition, hold on to what brings you inner peace and soul satisfaction.
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