Change is constant. If we learn by practice (or trial and error) then why aren’t we better at it? Change is a process, not an event. When we experience change on multiple levels all at the same time it can overwhelm our coping mechanisms.

Fear of the unknown is one of the most painful fears to experience. We are having neural and chemical reactions in our brains as we deal with the unknown. We experience identity threats as we may question who we are and how we fit into this new scenario. We endure physical reactions to the stress and anxiety that accompany ambiguity wreaking havoc on our digestive systems. And we are on an emotional rollercoaster ride withdrawing or lashing out in unpredictable ways.

All of these forces at work pull us in different directions. We feel weakened by the pounding at us on all fronts. In Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” there are four characters (mice) with four types of reactions to change, some more proactive than others.

  • Sniff would use his mouse nose to smell out where the cheese can be found – he identifies changes in the air
  • Scurry ran in the direction Sniff said there was cheese – he takes action and makes it happen
  • Hem became comfortable with others providing the cheese – he did not recognize or believe in the change and wanted the status quo
  • Haw also became comfortable with what was, but felt threat of danger – started resistant and then became open-minded to adapt to the change

Can you find yourself in one of these descriptions or a combination of them? We all have different ways of coping with change.

What can we do to take back control of our lives, to get us feeling healthy and productive again? How can we utilize change as a catalyst for development and growth? Here are four levels accompanied by questions we can ask ourselves in addressing and managing change constructively:

  1. Awareness: What is changing?
  2. Attitude: How do I feel about this change?
  3. Behavior: What do I need to do differently to adapt to the change?
  4. Values: In what ways do my values support me through this change?

Asking these questions stimulates us to be in touch with the cognitive, emotional, behavioral and moral aspects of who we are and how we function. It causes us to face change in a constructive and rational way reducing the potential of being complacent or overwhelmed. We can slow down the emotional rollercoaster ride, regain control and composure. Who knows, we may even begin to enjoy the new perspectives change can bring. The thing about change is, it can be quite exciting!


Johnson, S. (1998). Who moved my cheese?: An a-mazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Miller, M. (2015). Positive thinking quotes: 365 inspirational, affirmations and success quotes to change your brain change your life. Amazon Digital Services.

About the Author

Beth Fisher-Yoshida Ph.D., CCS

Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Ph.D., CCS, is a Facilitator, Educator, Mediator and Executive Coach, who partners with clients to improve communication and relationships.

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