"Change" - That dirty word that makes us shudder
"The only thing that is constant is change" – Heraclitus
It is quite ironic that considering we have cells in our bodies that change every single day, you would think that we as humans would be quite accustomed to change and be comfortable with it.
Some of us are; most of us aren’t.
Some of us pretend we are; most of us try to shy away from it.
Some of us buckle up and wait to be taken on the ride; most of us get off at the first available stop with relief.
Some of us have been picked up by circumstance and thrown into the “change arena” – like the Romans – to do or die... So we must “do” because we want to progress in life.
Back to normal
Whatever aspect you feel you are sitting in right now (and you may recognise yourself in a few of them), there is an innate desire or wanting to want to go “back to normal” or how it was. Yet by the mere consideration of the term “change”, this is impossible. For what has changed cannot be undone. Change’s DNA involves forward momentum – not always positive – but forward all the same. Just like life, it cannot go back to a past situation or event.
Let’s take this covid pandemic as an example. One of the main phrases that has been reiterated consistently is the desire or wish to “get back to normal” once all the restrictions and regulations in association with keeping us all safe has gone. So let’s pick a scenario:
Sarah* goes back to the office after lockdown restrictions have been lifted and sits back at her desk. She makes a coffee in her favourite mug from the staff kitchen and is enjoying catching up with her fellow colleagues. She opens her drawer to the right of her and takes out her stapler, pens and notepad. Her computer is annoying her at not working efficiently (as per usual) but revels in the fact that this is normal to her.
The thing is though – she has also had to deal with working from home – something she had never done before. She now misses the feeling of her slippers on her feet. She can’t blast a Queen song out of her computer as she goes to start her day. She realises quickly that she won’t get to say hi to the old fella who sits on his favourite park bench as she goes for her quick lunchtime wander around the park near her home. These are all changes that were placed before her and she now knows about them. She can’t undo them, un-experience them. They are now part of her memory bank. So sitting back at her work desk “just like before” – isn’t.
So we can’t “go back to normal” – there is no such thing.
So why do we recoil at the thought of change?
Well, not everyone does. Some people revel in it. But most of us feel very uncomfortable with it. That is until the uncomfortable becomes comfortable and then we are ok again. Continued experience and being in that new space is what helps us become comfortable. Think of working from home – some of us were delighted by that prospect (even though the reason why wasn’t very nice...and that’s ok!), many of us would not have been comfortable with that prospect at all – so many questions with no “comfortable” answers. Yet with practice and having to be in that new space, we have become comfortable with it now. Comfortable doesn’t equal happy by the way. They are two different feelings.
The more “in control” we need to feel, the harder change is for us. You see, change doesn’t wear a harness or have reigns that we can hold on to. It’s like a free spirit that darts all over the place and sometimes the more we try to control it, the more it seems to evade us – frustrating us, stressing us out and distracting us from the real reason why the change is happening. We don’t like change because sometimes it’s not methodical and doesn’t have a process or structure to follow. Having said that, the latter point is often because we try so hard to resist change that we don’t even accept that it could happen and so don’t plan for it. And as we react to pain (and recall very vividly), we remember the few times that change caught us unawares and the horrible feelings that went with that rather than recalling the changes that we didn’t mind so much and the good feelings we felt about them.
So is it any wonder really (if we are being kind to ourselves) that we shudder at the thought of change?
Is making a plan for every eventuality the solution? Clearly not, you will drive yourself into an early grave trying to do so. The solution isn’t a one-size-fits-all – again, the feeling we can’t control it if its parameters are constantly changing. But through all of this uncertainty is one stable thing... you.
You are the core element to change that happens around you. You are the root system to the tree that lets it be flexible in the wind but kept grounded. You calm the waters of a stormy sea. You really DO have the power - not control but power - to guide yourself through the land of change.
The viewpoint you could choose to see this from then is not what possible situations could come around the corner but how you are standing in your own space in being prepared and resilient enough to handle whatever may come around that corner. Strengthen your own foundations. Look at things that you find worry you, cause you angst and upset you. You don’t have to live in those zones but look from above and see what they look like. From this point, you can see what part of those situations causes the greatest worry. See, hear and feel what it is. Then come back to your pen and paper and think about what things you could do (if that inner voice would let you!), to help you feel stronger and ready for a situation. When your inner voice is trying to discredit you straight away, just say to it:
“yes, you will get to have your say but please let me just right these down for now.”
Seeing them on paper makes them more real and therefore more attainable.
A note about that inner critic
Lots of people say lots of negative things about the inner voice. I think that’s a little unfair. There are many aspects of your psyche and each of them has an important purpose within you. So does the inner voice (critic to some). It is the voice that reminds you to be careful when you are crossing the road, to blow on that steamy hot food so you don’t burn your tongue, to remind you that if you were to jump out of an aeroplane without a parachute may not be the best idea of the day! Imagine if you didn’t have that inner voice?!? So we need to let that voice have its say and put it in the context of what you are trying to achieve but have it with the same microphone volume (or maybe a little lower if possible) as your other aids that you have in your brain trying to keep you going – excitement, resilience, consideration, dreamer, realist etc.
Make "Change" your friend
So, are we just a little hard on ourselves whenever we hear that word “change”? Do you think we put too much emphasis on it and not enough focus on how we will handle it? There are changes happening every single day; ones that we don’t even notice. Yet we seem transfixed on certain ones. When you feel that uncertainty and anxiety rising within you, just allow yourself to stop for a little while and consider why it is you are feeling the way you are about that change. You might surprise yourself that you really aren’t as fearful of it as your first thoughts would lead you to believe.
Aware of some of the things I've mentioned here but just don't know what to do next for the best?
You "get it" but don't know where to start?
If YOU want to change the repetitive story that's going on inside your head and find a better and easier way to handle change, then get in touch with me. Handling change is so much easier if you have someone else to talk it out with. Head to my services page or contact me directly to discuss your own personal situation.
t: +44 (0)7570 259153
*not real name
© YMR Coaching & Development
Yvonne has qualifications in Coaching, Positive Psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and believes in continual personal development. She is currently based in the UK and also has life and work experience in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. She helps with mindset wellbeing and change which includes significant relocations. She is contactable for client availability, public speaking events and media enquiries here: https://www.ymrcoaching.com/helpful-links