As we continue to look ahead at 2019, you’ve probably set some intentions of some things you’d like to change. If you made a resolution to lose weight, save money you might still be going strong at this point or the uncomfortableness of it has become too challenging and you’ve thrown in the towel. But what about the changes we don’t plan for? How do we find the calm in the chaos as our life and those in it are constantly evolving? I’m the kind of person that loves order and structure. I’m a list maker, checker offer, organizer and rule follower (most of the time). I have struggled with embracing change, even when it’s something I want. Author M.J. Ryan has studied change and offers wonderful insights that have helped me that I’ll share with you here. No matter what wave may be hitting you, there are some basic truths about change and once we have a good understanding of them it’s easier to accept the need to adapt.
It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin
Truth #1 Change Is The One Thing You Can Count On
Even though most of us can’t know for sure when and how change will hit us, we can at least keep in our awareness the simple fact that it will. We need to be ready with the appropriate attitudes and actions so that we minimize the negative impacts and capitalize on the opportunities. When we’re aware of change, we can see the signs earlier, so we’re ahead of the wave. This gives us the distinct advantage of responding.
Truth #2 It’s Not Personal
What’s happening right now to most of us is not because we’re bad or wrong or incompetent. Change happens because the world is transforming at a fast pace and we all must adapt to those changes as efficiently as possible. No one is exempt. It’s not about how old you are, or how hard you’ve worked or what your expectations of life have been, or what you’ve sacrificed or invested in. What’s going on has nothing to do with you personally. Depersonalizing a challenging change gets you out of a sense of failure and frees up your thinking to be as adaptable as possible.
Truth #3 Your Thinking Is Not Always Your Friend
The brain is an amazing organ that can learn from experiences, grow new cells and pathways your whole life. Neuroscientists are just beginning to understand a fraction of what the brain can do and how. Unfortunately not all of what the brain can do is helpful when it comes to change. 2 things particularly – the first one is that the brain tends to do the same thing over and over, which is not so good when you need to think creatively about how to cope with a situation you haven’t been in before. It tends to look for patterns to match current experiences from the past.
The 2nd thing to know about the brain is that it gives us inaccurate information at times. It’s constantly scanning for danger, just like all mammals, but can sound the alarm unnecessarily. So what do we do with these unhelpful parts of our brain? Becoming aware of when we’re in one of these thinking ruts is the first step toward a different choice.
Truth #4 Change Isn’t The Enemy, Fear Is
For those of us who like predictability and routine, times of great change can bring on intense fear. It’s crucially important to recognize what we’re feeling and have coping strategies in place. Fear shrinks our world and limits our ability to think creatively about our choices. It not only causes us to isolate ourselves from others who could help but it can also make us overgeneralize from this one situation to the feeling that the sky is falling. This is our fight, flight, freeze response kicking in. It’s easy to feel intimidated rather than exhilarated by change, especially when it’s not positive. Fear is the true challenge of change.
Truth #5 There’s A Predictable Emotional Cycle to Change
Change not of your choosing typically sets off an emotional process that experts say follows a predictable cycle. This cycle is not so different from the 5 stage grief cycle: denial (“this can’t be happening”) anger (“how dare this happen”) bargaining (“I’ll do anything not to have to go through this again”) depression (“why try”) and acceptance (“it’s happening and I can handle it”). Unasked for change always represents a death of some kind- a divorce, a job loss, kids leaving home, a friendship ends, etc. It is the death of your expectations for the future and a sense of loss of control. Take comfort in the fact that what you are feeling is normal and it does have positive progression even if you never come to appreciate the change itself.
Truth #6 You’re More Resilient Than You May Think
We’re all survivors of our own lives. You’ve dealt with changes you never anticipated or wanted. Despite it all, you’re still here! According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the human ability to adapt in the face of tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors.” As psychology professor at Colombia University George Bonanno says. “We can cultivate resilience by committing to find meaning in what is happening to you, a belief in your capacity to create a positive outcome, the willingness to grow, and the choice to laugh and be grateful.” We can ask ourselves, “what could possibly be right about this” or “what in your life can you be grateful for right now”.
Truth #7 Your Future Is Built On A Bedrock That is Unchanging
Biologist know that one of the qualities of a living system is that it is able to respond and adapt to change without losing its basic integrity. So it is with you. There is a “youness” that is unchanged; a core that will remain no matter how much and how well you adapt. To understand this it’s important that we understand the difference between who you are as a person and your behavior. To adapt to change your behaviors might need to change but your essence as a person remains the same. During change, getting more in touch with that “youness” is crucial because it’s the raw material you bring to any and all circumstances. That raw material has 4 elements to it – what you love to do, the unique ways of thinking ,you are excellent at, what deeply matters to you and the environment that brings out the best in you. These create your sense of purpose. They are what you can count on no matter what else changes.
If you are going through a change you didn’t expect, or even a change you did expect but find it challenging – reach out and we can work through it together. Call now for a free consultation.