“Change is the only constant in life” - Heraclitus.
Yet, human beings are not wired to embrace change. Did you know that the brain registers uncertainty as a more stressful experience than pain itself?
This can sound quite discouraging, especially since change is an important and powerful element of life. Without change, we are stuck. We watch the world around us evolve and we are left behind.
This is why it's critical to learn how to adapt to change, whether we see it as desirable or not. If you are facing stressful transitions in your life right now, or are anticipating a big change in the near future, either for yourself or for someone close to you, I encourage you to read this article.
You will discover how to:
- Welcome and embrace change;
- Build confidence in your ability to handle life’s transitions;
- Reduce the stress that stems from fear and uncertainty from change.
To make things easier to follow, I have broken up the whole process of embracing change into 3 simple steps that you can start taking today.
** This article was originally developed as an on-demand coaching program, which I created for ShamanX, "your coaching app for more balance & efficiency, at work and at home."
Now, let's dive into step 1 right now! Allon-Z! Let's go!
STEP 1: Accepting Change and Stress
Change is part of life, and the stress it creates is perfectly normal. Sometimes, stress is positive, like the excitement of getting married, starting a new exercise routine, or buying a new house; sometimes it’s negative, like the fear of moving to a new city, the concern around eating differently after an alarming health diagnosis, or the grief of losing a job we love.
Tip 1: Adopt a growth mindset
Remind yourself that every transition will teach you something. Navigating change will help you grow and become wiser if you take the time to learn from what your are going through.
Look at previous changes in your life to draw strength and build confidence. You can go back as far as your childhood to acknowledge all the changes that you have already been through. This will help you alleviate the stress and anxiety that current and future changes might trigger. You will realize that change has always been part of your life and you can deal with it.
To get even more benefits out of this long list of changes, list all the strengths you had to use in order to overcome challenging transitions. Reflect on how you can use these strengths again to handle present situations.
Tip 2: Acknowledge your fears and accept them
Look at your fears for what they are: a normal reaction of your mind feeling threatened by the unknown. Your fears are nothing to be ashamed of, they are not a reflection of your being weak.
A good way to get used to not knowing what to expect and reduce the stress that comes from the unknown is to engage in fun and creative activities you have never tried before.
Here are example of low stake experiences your can dive into:
- Play games with people you feel safe around;
- Learn a new sport or an instrument;
- Listen to different types of music;
- Watch shows you are not familiar with;
- Try new restaurants or bars;
- Visit places you have never been to in your area;
- Experiment with new hobbies…
You will increase your exposure to change without having to suffer any negative consequences. You will become more familiar with the discomfort of doing something you have never done before.
Tip 3: Separate yourself from the experience
Remind yourself that you are not defined by one experience. Your identity cannot be summed up by the change you are going through. You are the only one who decides how a specific situation will affect you as a whole person and how you can stay true to your values while going through a transition.
Using a mantra can help you start each day of a transition period with the assurance that your identity is not at jeopardy. You could say something like “I am more than just this experience”, or “This experience doesn’t define me”, or “I am not losing my values while going through this transition”.
It is important to acknowledge that we have the ability to tackle change successfully and that we will grow more knowledgeable, wiser, and stronger. As we go through more and more transitions in life, we can build resilience and learn how to stay grounded even in the midst of an overwhelming situation.
STEP 2: Build your Sphere of Control
Often, because of the stress created by a change, we have a tendency to rush forward and busy ourselves with tasks from our to-do-list so that we can avoid thinking things through. Instead, it is key to take the time to slow down and truly assess what is happening and what our role will be in the transition ahead.
Tip 4: Define what you have control over
Don’t look at your situation as if it were an unsolvable problem you have no control over. Instead, evaluate what is really happening. Determine which elements are under your control and which ones are not. This will help you define the actions you can take rather than feel overwhelmed and helpless.
Here is how you can get a better idea of what you have power over:
- Draw a two-column chart, one column titled “within my control” and the other one “out of my control”.
- In the appropriate column, list all the items related to the change you are facing.
- Go through the list of items you have control over and determine what you can concretely do, what strengths you will need to use, what outcome your are aiming for, and what benefit you will get out of your actions.
- Go through the list of items that are out of your control and assess whether asking for help could help you move some items to the other column.
- Once you have moved as many items as possible away from the “out-of-control” column, sit with the items left and ask yourself how you can let go, make peace with the situation, and move on.
Tips 5: Create a comforting daily routine
In times of transition, consistency is key to help us feel grounded and in charge. Establishing a daily routine will help you manage your time and keep your stress low when everything else seems to be chaotic and out of control. It will also help you move forward day after day, even when you doubt yourself and your ability to keep going.
Incorporating self-care into your daily routine will help you stay in touch with who you are, deep down, as you go through a tough transition. Make sure to incorporate self-care each day, whether it’s taking a break to read or listen to music, going for a 30-minute walk after lunch, committing to a fun and enjoyable workout, meditating, etc.
Tip 6: Set SMART Goals
Change is daunting if you don’t know what it will lead to. Set clear goals for what you want to get out of a transition and write them down to that you don’t lose track of them while going through the chaos of a temporary situation. When you see change as a necessary way to reach your goals, it will be easier to accept it and make the most of it.
Define a plan to reach your goals, but don’t get paralyzed if you don’t know every single step along the way. Identifying just a few steps ahead is a great way to get started. You will figure out things as you make progress.
Start acting as if you already were the person you will be once the transition is over. You have probably heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”. It is not always appropriate, as you don’t want to pretend to be someone you are not. But to an extent, starting to walk in the shoes of the person you will become after a transition can help you envision success and feel more confident about the process.
Here are some examples:
- After graduation or layoff: dress like the professional you will become once you land your dream job;
- Moving to a new place: go for walks in what will soon be your new neighborhood, visit restaurants in the area, do some shopping there even if you haven’t moved yet;
- Going through a divorce: join groups for singles, whether virtually or around activities you already enjoy;
- Change of career: don’t wait until you have made the change to reach out to professionals in your new area of expertise, create connections, go to conferences and fairs;
- Expecting: hangout with people who have children already and live a fun and fulfilling life, or watch uplifting movies featuring happy parents.
A large part of the stress caused by change comes from a fear of the unknown and a perceived lack of power. Having a clear vision of what we are striving for and what we have control over will help us see change as a step toward a goal rather than a transition imposed on us.
STEP 3: Navigate Change Like a Pro
Once we have accepted change as a necessary part of our existence and as a step toward a new and exciting life, it is time to tackle the transition with a positive outlook and stack all the odds in favor of a successful outcome.
Tip 7: Gather information and ask for help
Gather as much information as you possibly can, so that you feel empowered to take action. Compile facts, look at statistics, seek guidance from professionals, and talk with experienced people. They can tell you about their successes and show you that you too can do it. Be cautious with advice though: remember that you are unique and so is your situation.
Be vulnerable and transparent with others and with yourself.
- If you are going through a change with someone else, open up to them, share your feelings, fears, struggles, and hopes. You will realize that you are not alone and that you most likely have a lot in common with your “partner in transition”. It will help you feel understood and stronger.
- If you are going through a change alone, use your support network. Talk with your friends and loved ones (again, be cautious around advice) and let them know that you appreciate the extra love and care that they might provide. You will be surprised at the power of your community once you open your heart.
Tip 8: Focus on the positive
Science proves it: we are naturally inclined to focus more attention on negative experiences than on positive ones. Yet, it is hard to feel calm and empowered when all we can think of are obstacles, barriers, and negative outcomes.
In order to feel less stressed about a transition, be very intentional about identifying and acknowledging all the positive experiences interspersed along the way. Take the time to reflect on them and internalize them so that you can feel ownership for what is going well in your life.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple and effective way to train your brain for a more positive outlook on life. Each day, take a few minutes to:
- List 3 positive things you experienced that day. Try to come up each day with different things, as small as they might seem
- Set 3 intentions for the day, to help focus your attention on positive goals. Again, keep things small and manageable. No need to be a hero every day!
Tip 9: Reflect regularly on your progress to build confidence
As you navigate through your transition, take the time to pause regularly and reflect on how far you have traveled. Noticing what you have already achieved and what is left to do will help you feel more confident about your ability to keep moving forward.
Approaching change just like we would approach any other project - that is, factually, patiently, with a positive outlook and a strong support system - helps us stay motivated and focused. This way, we make tangible progress, build confidence, and move smoothly toward the new life that we envision.
So, what's the takeaway?
Life is made of changes. Whether they affect us emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually, they often trigger stress and anxiety, even more so when a change happens without a plan rather than being mapped out ahead of time.
Change can be scary. It leads to uncertainty, which, as human beings, we would do pretty much anything we can to avoid.
Yet, once we learn to embrace change and tackle it as a step toward a well-defined goal, we feel empowered and confident about our ability to come trough successfully, and even stronger and happier.
Please, let me know what big change or life transition you are going through right now. You can drop a line in the comments below, or contact me directly HERE. I always love to hear from you so much!
And if you are looking for support as you are going through tough changes in your life and want to finally implement changes that you have been procrastinating on for a while (maybe years!), feel free to request a FREE Discovery Call with me so that we can chat and see if there is a way I can help you through it.