How To Survive and Thrive Through Life’s Big Changes

Pause. Assess. Gather. Decide. Execute. PAGDE will help you determine the best course for your current dilemma and also give you insight into how to handle future life changes.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. — Lao Tzu

What have you learned from the “Capital Letter Changes” in your life? Graduation, leaving home, new job, being let go, wedding, divorce, illness, birth, death. It’s mid year, a season when many changes occur, and change whether good or sad, voluntary or not, can be stressful.

How do you deal with each change is going to determine whether it will spur you on to happiness, greater accomplishments, and peace — eustress, or reduce you to frustration, lowered productivity and regret — distress.

People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” — Epictetus

Over the years I’ve become much calmer and more relaxed now that I’ve managed to live through many life-threatening disasters, some of which didn’t really happen except in my mind. I’ve learned that my latest urgent crisis/ life change is probably not going to kill me. I can now step back take a deep breath, or 10, and look for ways to deal with the challenge with more equanimity and peace; ahh, that’s one of the good parts of getting older.

I’ve named the attitude adjustment system I’ve developed over the years, PAGDE. This five-step process has helped me deal with each major life change from my deeper wisdom instead of reacting hastily from my scared child self. PAGDE can be applied happily and effectively to both your business and personal life changes.



1. Pause: Take a deep breath, then another and then another. Repeat until you feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins begin to slow down. If you have to remove yourself from the immediate surroundings temporarily to regain composure, do so if at all possible. Whatever the impending change, it will benefit from your taking a mini time out so that you can gain some perspective before you say or do something you may regret.

2. Assess : What are the true dimensions of the issue? Who, what, when and how? Whether you are initiating the process or not, ask the same questions with no judgment and with an open mind.

3. Gather: Why did this happen? Is this a natural life process or is this something that was precipitated by outside circumstance? What are the possible solutions and the consequences of the various options and action steps? Involve all relevant parties as much as possible.

4. Come to consensus and Decide: Based on the above information, determine the appropriate next steps to resolve the issue and to prevent new ones if applicable. Always keep your life purpose and ultimate mission in mind in your consideration. How does this line up with what you most value?

5. Execute: Resolve the challenge with commitment and the comfort that together you have assessed, analyzed and come up with the best solution for all concerned. Repeat any of the above steps as needed as you proceed; the situation can change and you have to be prepared to adjust to the circumstances. Give thanks for the lessons; each big change is a step in our life journey and also an occasion for growth and increased capacity for joy and compassion.

Pause. Assess. Gather. Decide. Execute. PAGDE will help you determine the best course for your current dilemma and also give you insight into how to handle future life changes. Relax – by just asking the questions during each life change, you are already on the course to increased opportunity for joy and eustress!

I have accepted fear as part of life — specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back…”— Erica Jong


Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.


Originally published at Huffington Post