Change is scary. Most people are content to go with the status quo, and any change is perceived as a negative, even if the change would bring forth positive results.
Recently at work I have been experiencing wave after wave of change. New position, new procedures, new routines, new people. Lots and lots of new. Constant cycles of change.
In some ways I have enjoyed these new challenges. I am not someone who can remain stagnant for too long, hence the many positions I have held throughout my life. However, I enjoy feeling comfortable and confident in my role, knowing my expectations, and sharing that knowledge with others through precepting or coaching.
These recent events have had me thinking about why some respond so well to change, and others struggle madly against it, fighting an uphill battle to avoid the inevitable. At times in my life, I have certainly been a part of the latter. As I have grown and taken on new roles and different challenges, I have become more adaptive, more comfortable with a constant state of change going on around me. Perhaps how I view change has… well, changed?
According to Nick Tasler of Psychology Today, in his post titled “Why 1 in 3 People Adapt to Change More Successfully”, research shows that the most successful people (when faced with extreme change) do not focus on what they have done to deserve such a change. All people tend to investigate what the change means to them personally after experiencing a significant life event. However, Tasler asserts that according to research, about 1 in 3 people were significantly more successful in dealing with change when they focused on what they could do after the significant life event, versus fixating on making sense of why they deserved this “punishment”.
Action based mindsets and flexible perspectives seem to be our greatest assets to moving on after being dealt a difficult blow, or even following big positive changes such as receiving a great promotion.
If you are one of the ⅔ who adapts to change poorly, focusing and subsequently getting stuck on the “Why did this happen to me?” stage of adaptation, there is hope.
According to Debbie Hampton and the article she cites, How Your Thoughts Program Your Cells, your thoughts are electrochemical events producing physiological changes in the body that can actually physically change your brain, program your cells, and activate your genes. In other words, how you think (even about changes in your life) directly affects your body on the cellular and genetic levels. Hampton goes on to state that since every cell is replaced in the body every couple of months, we are able to reprogram how we think by taking up such practices as mindfulness and gratitude. Consciously reprogramming our brains by choosing our perspective and behavior will actually inspire physical changes throughout our brains, cells, and genes. Perhaps this awareness of the impact of our thoughts on our behavior can be translated well to dealing with change.
Change your perspective, change your thoughts, and literally change your life. Easier said that done for most, but completely attainable nonetheless. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), meditation, and occasionally medication can help with reframing how we see our experiences. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can help us to put change into perspective and from there, formulate an action plan to make the jump from experiencing the change to adapting successfully afterwards.
I believe that frequently pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones with small changes gives us the ability to also become more comfortable in dealing with bigger changes. Avoiding change or living in denial do nothing to help us adapt or bounce back from surprise hardships when they pop up. And as we all know, they always do pop up. By always staying just beyond our zone of comfort in any endeavor, we can gradually increase the likelihood that we will be able to embrace large scale change with a problem-solving, resilient attitude.
Tasler, Nick. “Why 1 in 3 People Adapt to Change More Successfully.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 June 2016, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/strategic-thinking/201606/why-1-in-3-people-adapt-change-more-successfully.
Hampton, Debbie, et al. “How Your Thoughts Change Your Brain, Cells, And Genes.” The Best Brain Possible, Electronically Published, 31 Mar. 2018, www.thebestbrainpossible.com/how-your-thoughts-change-your-brain-cells-and-genes/.