Change is not a sexy topic that’s for sure, yet it is probably one of the most important to talk about. Why? Because your attitude and habits around how you deal with change determines your level of happiness and stress.
One way to think about this is that change is like waves on the beach. Just like change, waves are relentless and can be powerful, and there’s really only three things you can do with a wave: Let it knock you down, fight it and hopefully survive, or ride it.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three ways to handle change.
When Change Knocks You Down
We let the waves of change knock us down when we take what I call the ‘dead roach’ approach to change – flat on our back, feet in the air and out of control.
You can tell you are taking this approach when you say things such as:
- “I’m so stressed out!”
- “I can’t take this!”
- “This isn’t fair!”
- “Why does this always have to happen to me?”
While these waves of change can and do happen without us knowing what hit us, these are the rarest of events that take place. It could be that a tragedy happens to a loved one, or you get fired from your long-term job, or you get some bad news that you weren’t expecting.
The thing about this type of change is that it’s not important that you got knocked down because that’s going to happen from time to time. It’s how quickly you get back up again and handle change that makes the difference.
The quicker you can let go of any ‘story’ that you might have created around the change that keeps you mentally or emotionally stuck, the sooner you can free up your energy to be used for more productive endeavors.
Resistance Is Futile
When you resist change, or fight against it, that’s when the crap really hits the fan. You see, the only consistent thing in life apart from death and taxes is change. Nothing in the physical world ever stays the same. Even the cells of you body are constantly dying and new ones are being born.
On average a skin cell lives for about two to three weeks, while red blood cells can live up to about 4 months and their cousins the white blood cells get replaced on average every year. This means that over your lifetime, just about every cell in your body will undergo massive on-going changes.
In nature, as in life, change generally happens for a reason. We may not always be aware of the reasons until some time after the change happens, but nonetheless there is meaning behind the apparent upheaval in our lives.
Typically, when you resist change in your life that is when you experience pain. It can be the pain of struggle or the pain of having to make a decision that you know is in your best interest but have been unwilling to make in the past.
This can be as simple as deciding to go see a doctor because of a physical symptom of some kind that is of concern to you that you have been trying to ignore or put-off doing anything about. This always comes back to fear of the unknown, yet it is in the unknown that you can diagnose the problem and do something about it.
And this fear of change will always be the reason that you experience pain or hardship in the areas of your relationships, health, finances, career, or anything at all that you don’t pay attention to the warning signals that change is upon you and you’d better be paying attention.
What we’re talking about here is developing the habit of just surviving change. Though in a few cases it’s really the only thing you can do, it really isn’t the optimal approach to take. I don’t know about you, but merely surviving doesn’t sound like a very compelling way to live.
If you’re thinking or saying these things, you’ve probably settled on merely surviving:
- “How can I get through this?”
- “What’s the worst that could happen here?”
- “I don’t know if I can take this.”
- “What can I do to get by?”
The problem with taking a survival approach is that you just merely get by. When you’re ready to do more than just get by, it’s time to begin managing change.
How To Thrive With Change
By tapping into the power of the waves of change and learning to ride with it rather than fight against it will give you the best vantage point to enjoy the journey of life from. By learning how to see and manage change as it happens will help you to become highly adaptable no matter what life sends your way.
Not only can we learn to get creative with change but we can also develop a high level of tolerance for uncertainty that inevitably arises when the outcome of any given change is not yet known.
An example of this is that you know you need to change your career but are afraid of quitting because you don’t know what will happen in the future. But as you learn to embrace change and go with it, your tolerance level for fear and uncertainty will grow.
You can learn to thrive with change by finding peace with the unknown. Look at it this way. Most things about our lives are predictable and known because we are creatures of habit that like to stay close to what we are most comfortable with.
The only challenge with this is that it kills the adventure of life. The real excitement and fun of life always comes from those moments when we weren’t in control and the unexpected happened that caused us to come fully alive. I call this ‘spontaneous’ living.
This is what changes offers us… to live a spontaneous life. This doesn’t mean that we don’t plan things or do things repetitively that we love. What is means is that you allow more spontaneity in your daily life. By applying this strategy to your life you are in essence saying yes to change in a more conscious manner.
As you embrace change with joy and enthusiasm, then you will start to handle all change the same way. And once change becomes fun, then your life will become the most fantastic adventure that you could have ever imagined because now you flowing with the process of life, rather than against it.
Here are some questions to ask to begin to learn how to thrive on change:
- How can I make this work for me?
- What’s good about this?
- What does this change allow me to do that I couldn’t do before?
- What positive things might this change force me to do?
Change is inevitable. How we handle it is optional. Make the choice to ride the waves and you’re likely to create a healthier, happier, freer and more outrageous life. It takes ten times more energy to resist change than it does to go with it.
The next time you notice yourself resisting change, stop for a moment, take a slow deep breath, and then take a baby step towards saying ‘yes’ to change and see where it takes you. One things for sure, it’ll free up your energy to use in whatever way you like that will bring you more of what you love in your life.