May 19, 2023
There is a lot of talk these days about pivoting. It seems to be the new buzz word. Businesses pivot to new growth strategies. Sports teams pivot to new coaches. Political campaigns pivot to new messages. And people pivot in response to a whole host of circumstances in life.
Change is never easy, whether it is a career move, ending a marriage or trying a new diet or exercise program. The best laid plans can get sidetracked, sometimes from factors beyond our control, other times from our own desire to adjust. Either way, it is important to recognize that pivoting is part of life, particularly as we age.
How and when we pivot becomes the key to sustaining our well-being. Ultimately, the success of our pivots influences our physical and mental health. Life can generate all types of stress, whether its from negative events like martial separation, the death of a loved one, a job change, chronic illness and financial problems, or even positive change. These experiences can make physical and emotional health more difficult to maintain.
My own lived experience is a case study in pivoting. Coming out of college I had some very specific goals for my career, family and public service. Not long after I graduated, those plans came crashing down for reasons that were totally out of my control. Regardless of the underlying cause, I had to pivot. Pointing fingers or making excuses would not change the facts. It was time to move in a new direction.
I adjusted my career ambitions, earned more academic credentials and set out on a new path which proved successful. Eventually, I also reconfigured my family structure and embarked on a major pivot to single parenthood with two sons under my roof. It was not easy, but it brought huge rewards in the long run. I almost reached success with a second marriage, which would have helped my personal rebuilding, but that succumbed to yet another unexpected circumstance outside of my influence. As life unfolded, my reconstructed model worked – the boys grew up, went off to college and crafted lives of accomplishment that are a huge source of pride.
The real estate market crash in 2008 brought another pivot. It impacted the flourishing consultancy I had built. But as they say, timing is everything. One of my clients offered me a leadership position at a local college. I accepted and things worked out great. With the family in check, my career in a good place, the only remaining hole was my personal life. Then lightning struck – in a good way. I met the love of my life. The woman who is now my wife. The best pivot of my life. She loves by my boys and now my grandson, and they feel the same. I guess good things do come to those who wait.
Professionally, there was yet another pivot in 2011 when I had the opportunity to move into health care at Cooper, where I remain today. From this perch, my lifelong interest in healthy behavior has been crystalized into an advocacy for men’s health and has extended into yet another pivot – writing. Authoring "Crack The Code" and serving as a contributing writer at PhillyVoice has brought me a new purpose and meaning in areas I would have never conceived at the start of my journey.
Yes, I have had a lifetime of pivots. The common denominator among them all? The need to manage change, the willingness to embrace new experiences, and accepting that life is not a static proposition. Are there more pivots in my future? Undoubtedly. The physical, mental and social dynamics of aging would absolutely suggest so. To guide your thoughts, let ‘s look at what the experts say about managing stress and change. Advice can be found in several areas.
The Harvard Business School offers several recommendations for managing change. For unwelcomed pivots, its experts emphasize the need to recognize your anger and focus on the practical side of problem solving. Don’t let your emotions push you toward problems you cannot solve. Another tip which I particularly like, is focusing on core values – what is most important to you. Do not let immediate threats compromise who you are.
Johns Hopkins Medicine describes the healthy and unhealthy stress relievers that people turn to. They key is recognizing this mixture and focusing on healthier options like exercise, mediation, prayer and social support. The Mayo Clinic says that people managing stressful situations should take active steps to build emotional awareness, strength, presence of mind and the energy to handle daily tasks. Experts stress the value of continuing daily tasks or, when impossible, establishing new routines.
The scholars at Utah State University remind us that we get to choose how we react to life’s difficult experiences. They offer several strategies to help us do so in healthy and productive ways. Among their recommendations is to not overthink your situation. If you feel yourself moving in that direction, they suggest that you talk things out with a friend or literally write out your thoughts to help clarify and organize your thinking. Assessing your strengths can make you feel better and serve as a platform for setting new goals. And finding meaning in your experiences is a way to personal growth and transformation.
No matter what your method, take heart. Last summer, I described how 50% of the individuals who endure a traumatic event in their lives end up growing from the experience, a phenomenon know as post traumatic growth. Pivoting may be the contemporary term for what we have commonly referred to as adjusting, changing, adapting or just being flexible. No matter what term you use, pivoting is an inevitable part of life that requires an open mind and a willing soul. I’ve learned that pivoting can be a good thing, producing outcomes that have added new purpose and meaning in my life. Embrace the pivot. It can open doors new and exciting opportunities which can keep you happy and healthy.