In my previous blog “Remember what the customer is looking for”, I successfully got my parent’s house sold by focusing on what the buyer’s wanted and remembered a great business lesson.  But there is another adage in business that one should remember  – be careful for what you wish for.  Selling their house now means they have to move out of the house.  Normally house moving is a stressful time; however, when the move includes downsizing and the realization that it will be your last move, the stresses are exponentially greater.

In his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, Author William Bridges takes readers step by step through the three stages of any transition: The Ending, The Neutral Zone, and, in time, The New Beginning.  In my parents’ case, the move represents an extremely LARGE neutral zone because they have lived in the house for 25 years. The “Ending” is full of emotionally laden stuff and, as they have a hard time getting rid of stuff to begin with, these anchors significantly slow beginning the transition process into and through the neutral zone.

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have been more proactive about culling junk.  We had a long-standing agreement that they would rid their house of 75 items each year.  Jokingly, they counted a pair of shoes as two items or a stack of old papers as 15-20 items and I laughed with them.  Now because of my enabling behavior, I am faced with being the very bad person who is throwing away their “valuable” junk and trash.  What makes me more culpable is that I was instrumental in getting my grandmother out of her house 22 years ago…I should have seen the signs and been better prepared.

The business or life lesson is simple: embrace change by sometimes acting on it proactively in small steps.  Rather than transitioning through the neutral zone with too much baggage, make the task smaller ahead of time.  Do annual or quarterly assessments on various aspects of your business or life and take action right away.  As an example, my wife and I cull through all our business and personal papers right after we file our taxes.  Any papers or documents that are outside the statute of limitations or usefulness are shredded. It is a bipolar decision – If it has value, it stays; if not Shred; no long-term storage to decide later.  Every year, every document must go through the review and nothing is sacred.  In business, decision process will be more complicated and may require digital reproduction storage but the key is keep things current, fresh, and relevant.  The benefit from regular action is you are prepared to look ahead and be engaged in the process rather than having to backtrack or backfill when a change or transition occurs.  It lowers stress, helps with better decisions, and frankly makes changes easier.  As change is the only constant, don’t avoid it – embrace it! …in small bites.

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