No one likes change. You’ve probably heard the quote, attributable to everyone from John C. Maxwell to Gandhi: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” The message: change is hard, people need help adjusting to it, and with it come opportunities.
We are hard-wired to find change threatening, for obvious reasons. Change represents the unknown. We might have to learn new skills or see things differently. Perhaps change will require us to unlearn old behaviors. It knocks us off-kilter, and we don’t like to feel out of balance.
There are changes we need to adapt to on a daily basis. Your colleague is fired and you have to pick up the slack. Someone cancels an appointment. These last-minute disruptions require you to shift gears and figure out how you’re going to handle the situation at hand. Though seemingly minor, even these changes may upset your internal sense of stability and tap into your fears or insecurities. If you have trouble handling these kinds of changes, ask yourself why, and review the suggestions below.
Then there are the monumental life changes: pregnancy, childbirth, divorce, empty nesting, job loss, a move, or the overwhelming loss of a loved one. A change like that can feel prodigious, like something you can’t recover from.
Change is inevitable. Coping means balancing the reactive with the proactive, being present while processing what’s happened. I advocate for being in “the now,” not the past or future, but that is difficult when you are faced with a big life change. You might need to let go of something from your past, or the fantasy of what might have been. You have to tap into how you feel about what‘s happening. Often, none of this is welcomed or easy, especially because as women we tend to care for others first and don’t take time to understand how experiences have affected our lives and hearts. We either slap an emotional band-aid on and move full throttle into “what’s next” or we grieve so intensely that we can’t pull ourselves out of it.
With change, you’ll likely have concerns (or fears) about what seems an uncertain future, and legitimately so. Change means that life will be different in some way. Rather than shove down your concerns, take a good look at them.
We aren’t given tools to deal with change. Instead, we’re taught to be reactive rather than proactive. We believe we have no control over how we feel, as if our emotions come out of left field. In fact we do have the ability to decide how we feel, but we’ve been programmed to react in certain ways for a very long time.
Emotions don’t come in a vacuum; they come with a history. No one knows what it’s like to be you, to have had the life experiences you’ve had that created your particular unconscious beliefs, and sense of the past or future. Transitions are a good opportunity to reengage with your sense of self, investigate what stops you from moving forward, and/or create something new.
Taking control of your life is an inside job. It is a good idea to get support, but ultimately how you handle a transition is up to you. It can increase your confidence, create learning, and even help “rewire” old thought patterns that are unhelpful.
During a transition, I recommend the following:
Taking time with the questions above will make it less likely that buried emotions will arise with a vengeance later on. You can get a grip on what is real versus perceived fear. Remember, allow yourself to grieve for the past but make empowered plans for a new future