How can you cope with so much change?

Change seems to be all around us and it can feel a bit ruthless and relentless at times.

From the changing seasons to the loss of a loved one.  From workplace organizational restructuring to relocation expectations.  We bump up against changes in political direction and policy amendments.  Our world is constantly facing change – big and small.  There is no escape, so do you wish you could be more at ease with them?  Perhaps get more comfortable with new experiences?  Be one of those folks who finds the pace of change exhilarating?

Listen to your Primal Human Needs

In order to feel truly fulfilled in life, our Primal Human Needs must be met, and these extend further than simply feeling safe in the midst of all that changes.

They include the need for:

  • Attention
  • Intimacy and connection
  • Creative challenges
  • Status and achievement
  • Meaning and purpose.

And in order to fully meet these needs, it is necessary to sometimes venture outside our comfort zone.

Even our distant ancestors did this when they listened to their urge to grow and learn about the world. This is what allowed them to begin building a civilization and move away from living in caves.

Of course, extreme risk-taking is not a good thing either. So it’s important to find a middle ground between taking risks and being too cautious, so you can live your life to the fullest and embrace opportunities for growth.

How can you cope with so much change?

Psychologically, we humans like the status quo.  We gravitate towards our same seat at the dinner table, or our same seat in a classroom.  We are creatures of habit. Some people prefer their salad first (e.g. North Americans), but in Paris the salad is eaten last.  The status quo provides a certain level of comfort and familiarity.

So, is it any wonder that with all these preferences, so many of us are struggling with the pace of change being encountered these days?

When changes are exciting we rally behind them.  But when change is foisted upon us, we often feel more anxious and resistant.  We want to have some control over the changes that happen in our life.

But choosing to embrace change is no real choice at all.  We’re in era of upheaval; a time of tremendous peril and opportunity. I feel it nearly every day, and I suspect you do as well, in conversations with friends and strangers. It’s a yearning to let go of the ways we have lived these last hundred years and to step into new ways of thinking and being.

We yearn to be part of something better.  New ways of making a living, of building community, of realizing our full potential.   We recognize that each of us is a part of some larger thing, an awakening of the human spirit that’s happening simultaneously on every continent. And yet, these big changes are freaking us out.  We want the new but are afraid to let go of the tried and true.  Even when it doesn’t seem to be working.

We elect new voices to speak on our behalf and then become disillusioned if their fresh approach borders on antagonism or is too big a stretch from the familiar or expected points of view.

Change Agents call out – “Let’s go this way – it’s new, it’s sexy, it’s where we need to be”.  While traditionalists sound the alarm, and argue that the changes are too extreme, seemingly wrought with problems.  Resistance grows and conflicts expand exponentially.  Two sides become more polarized, hesitant and uncertain.

When our minds begin to view change as a problem, we see it as a departure from the old – a significant loss, and our brains hate loss.  We have a hard time letting go of projects and ideas even when we know the project is growing stagnant or no longer relevant.  We struggle to end doomed relationships because we don’t want to think that our effort was all for naught (and yes, that includes employment).  We begin to fear a loss of significance or identity.  Who are we if we are not successful with this change implementation?

When it comes to navigating change, there is the reality of our experience, and there is our story about it. And fortunately, we get to choose the story.

A friend of mine complains frequently about the weather. It’s usually either too hot or too cold, except when it’s too wet or too dry. The weather is what it is. I can’t change it. But I do get to choose whether I allow my moods to be controlled by it, whether I allow it to make me miserable or not.  And whether I let my friend cause me to feel frustrated or not.

We always have a choice.  Do you willingly change, or do you dig your feet in and refuse, even if it means you might lose your job?

It is natural to resist a change that is being forced upon us.  When this happens, give yourself permission to freak out on your own time and then find ways to move forward.  When we fixate on what was lost because of the change, it prevents us from experiencing the good things that our new circumstances could initiate.

If anything is clear right now, it’s that we’re not in a temporary period of change after which we will return to business as usual. We’re in a time of fundamental restructuring in our economy and in our world.  Household names from the corporate world are gone or on the verge of collapse. And we’re going to have to adjust to that new reality.

I believe that change is not an intellectual concept, I believe it is an emotional one.  Embrace the conflict as you engage with the adventure that is change.

Steve Jobbs was known for leading from this perspective: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”  If the answer is “No”, then something needs to change.