If there is one that all of us deal with it's change. How it is dealt with says a lot about what we believe to be true not only for ourselves but for life as well. Think of it this way. When do we change anything in our life? Doesn’t it come more often after we have encountered pain? I know for me that is true.
When we think about change, adapting to a new place can be pretty scary. This fear is what manifests as sabotaging behaviour. It’s when we talk ourselves out of working out or talk ourselves into eating the pint of Hagen Daz. But what is behind the fear? You got it. Our ego!
“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.” MARILYN FERGUSON
It is our ego’s job to keep us safe and secure. That’s it. And when we challenge ourselves to move outside of our comfort zone then what we are essentially doing is putting our ego on notice with, “Shits about to change, brother.” And that’s when our ego signals to our brain to recall every painful experience we have had as it trying to convince us that the status quo is just fine. When this happens we are between trapezes attempting to cross without falling. But boy, that’s a long way down now, isn’t it? Or is it?
When we learn how to adapt to change, we can reel in our ego and take charge. We do that by learning to be the master of our mind vs. being a slave to its whims.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu
Here are a few ways to help you regain control so you can adapt to change more readily.
First, recognize the situation you are in and ask yourself what is changing?
“It is common for people to ignore that change is happening around them for various reasons,” says Steven Sellars a Licensed Professional Counselor. “Denying or delaying your reaction, however, can often be more stressful than accepting the change early on. Remind yourself that things will be okay and you’ve endured change before and been fine on the other side.”
Once we recognize we are in the midst of change we can start to prepare ourselves to begin adapting to the change.
For example, you’ve come out of the Dr’s office and she has painted a dreadful picture of your future based on your habits. She prescribes a health and wellness routine for you. Now, all you have to do is implement it. You realize this isn't going to be easy but the alternative is much worse so you begin preparing by pre-planning meals, re-adjusting your schedule to allow for exercise and downtime.
Speaking of downtime, you start a meditation practice to help centre yourself at the end of each day. Slowly, life starts to improve and that trapeze isn’t as scary after all. You’re taking responsibility by taking action.
But then it comes. That darn ego rears his head and gets your brain to pull a doozie on you by projecting onto your mind's eye the worst possible experience it can come up with. Voila, you take a step or two or three back. Now, what? Do you quit like before or is there another alternative? Sure there is. It’s time to cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself. Adapting to change is a journey of progress and not perfection. We will have slip-ups. That’s called life. The important piece is to get back up and start again.
It all comes down to mindset. As we work towards expanding our comfort zone we stretch the beliefs about who we are (our identity). When we change our mindset we are saying enough is enough and become the rulers of our lives instead of slaves to our mind and ego. This is the beginning of a hero’s journey as we expand our comfort zone by making empowering choices. Choices that stretch the boundaries of who we think we are and what we are capable of.
Ok, so that last statement is a TBU (True But Useless) bit of knowledge, isn’t it?. How do you make empowering choices? It starts with finding meaning in your life. Oops, that’s another TBU. Let’s unravel both of these.
To make empowering choices we must be clear on why we are choosing this course of action. If that course of action is aligned with what is important to us in life then the action becomes easier because it is backed by meaning and power. When we make choices that keep us safe then we’re not growing, are we? That’s no way to live.
If you aren’t in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret. Jim Carrey
As we learn to adapt to change there will come moments when regret will definitely kick in. We’re human and all of our experiences shape who we have become to date. Things we have, haven’t and wished we had and hadn’t all come streaming to us. We can’t change the past and there’s a possibility we have put so much energy into the memory that we have distorted the effect beyond the actual incident. In other words, get out of the past and stay present. This is what we influence over so make the best of it.
But maybe you are at a point where adapting to the change required to live the life you say you want is just too big. Then what do you do?
Change is scary and it's all about stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown. The good news is we can train our brain and ego that it is good and normal to step out of our comfort zone. To do that, start by making a list of everything you have been too afraid to do. Then make a plan and go do the scary thing.
For many people, public speaking is a scary thing to do as it was for me years ago. Then I joined Toastmasters and my whole life changed. Sure, my knees shook when I stood at the podium in front of 10 people but it was worth it and the best part is it didn’t kill me although my brain and ego sure made it out to do just that.
The point through all of this is we can adapt to change. And because we desire to live successful, happy and long lives we need to be proactive about how we manage the change we face in our lives.
Denial and resisting change will only result in you living a miserable life. This is why it is so important to learn how to be adaptable, resilient and bold in life because these three things are the keys to unlocking a successful outcome in adapting to the constant impact that change will have on our life.