In this article Pavlenka Small of Small Steps Coaching discusses change and offers 10 tips for facing and managing change in your life.
There is a saying, ‘the only thing in life that is certain, is that life is uncertain.’ No matter how much we prepare for and try to deal with unexpected change, most people, generally speaking, will try to resist change.
We feel uncomfortable and unsettled with the arrival of a new boss, moving house or starting a new job and the loss of a loved one can send us into a downward spiral of worry, anguish and despair. Dealing with change can be an overwhelming process, during which we often move through several states of mind and behaviour until we finally adjust.
Being made redundant or coping with unexpected illness can produce emotional feelings of anger, despair, apathy and disbelief as we try to cope with the bewildering change to our lives.
However, it is important to realise that feeling uncomfortable with change is a pretty normal reaction and although we tend to welcome stability and security, it is not the change itself that affects mental and physical wellbeing but how we react and respond to change. Remember that you will always have the choice to change your thoughts, behaviour and resulting feelings, when faced with change.
Everyone deals with change in different ways. For some, a big change will be seen as exciting and without it they would experience stagnation whilst for others it can lead to stress and mental and physical illness.
Many life changes are worth celebrating but even these happy changes can be stressful. How many brides describe their wedding day as the most stressful and yet happiest day of their lives?! But knowing that change is part of life doesn’t necessarily make it any easier or natural to cope with.
What is a good definition of change? Change means to :- ’move from one state of being, or place or circumstance, to another.’ Change is the connecting action that allows or causes one thing to be replaced by another. This could be our shoes, our ideas, our job or our diet. All of these definitions of change are verbs and speak of activity. But change is also a noun. Change is the transformation or the THING that happens when we move from one state to another.
Some change comes uninvited and it really is out of your control. Some change is just a matter of everyday living and some of it is change we choose to create. There are many types of change and here are just a few that we are likely to experience at any stage in our lives.
Sudden uninvited change - winning the lottery, being made redundant unexpectedly, a loved one becoming ill. These changes are outside of your control but you can control how you deal with them.
Long anticipated change - retirement, death of a parent, children leaving home. Even a positive life change like a well–funded retirement seems to take control of your life and may not be as easy to deal with as anticipated. Again, how you deal with the change can make all the difference with how you cope with it.
Everyday change—choosing paint for your house, changing your car or hairstyle; these changes are pretty straightforward but can be no less stressful at times.
Habits—drinking every night, not going to the gym you joined three months ago, going to bed too late. It becomes easy to drift into patterns of behaviour even though they might not be doing us any favours. Even though we might want to change such habits that we are unhappy with, in reality, it can often seem difficult to do so.
Changing self-limiting beliefs — believing you are too old to retrain, no good at a particular activity or not clever enough. We all have an inner voice that tells us negative, (and yet not necessarily true) things about ourselves. Such beliefs are self-perpetuating and can get in the way of us achieving certain things in life but they can be changed.
So how can you deal with change that you find difficult and challenging? As with all new things in life,coping with change in a more beneficial and positive way can take time, determination, patience and practice. However, always keep your end goals in sight and, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!
1. Start by accepting the change. People frequently believe that if they ignore change it won’t happen. If you accept change, you will feel more empowered to deal with it in a realistic and acceptable way.
2. Ask yourself some positive questions:- what is it about this situation that makes me feel anxious? Is there any evidence to support my concerns and fears? Have I been in a similar situation before? If so, how did I handle it then? What action can I take to change my situation? Asking relevant questions can help you to look at the situation in a more objective way and allow you to consider appropriate responses to your questions.
3. Keep an open mind and adopt a flexible approach to new information and circumstances. When things go wrong (as they frequently do), aim to look for the benefits not the negatives of the situation, in order to feel more in control.
4. Set strong personal boundaries. For example:- ‘I’m fine with this but I’m not willing to accept that’ mentality. It is all about what you are and are not willing to accept.
5. Put your needs first. If you know what your needs, expectations, aspirations and fears are, you are more likely to be able to cope with what life throws in your past.
6. Ask for help from those you trust and who have your best interests at heart. Those who never ask for help, never allow change to enter their lives. We are surrounded by people who live their lives according to the ‘rules’ others have made for them.
7. Write a list of all your achievements. List what you have achieved today, last week or ten years ago. This helps boost self-esteem and confidence.
8. Set yourself some realistic goals. Break larger goals down into smaller parts and be aware that goals can be altered according to unforseen situations happening.
9. Sack the ‘friends’ who bring you down. This may seem harsh but we all know people who drain us, sap our energy and make us feel lacking in our own capabilities. Surround yourself instead with vibrant, encouraging and supportive people. There is a great deal of truth in the saying:’ You can choose your friends but not your family.’
10. Finally, be kind to yourself. Avoid the self-put downs; it is so easy to fall into a self-deprecating mind-set and it is so destructive. Once you stop such beliefs you will realise you ARE good enough to get what you want and make things happen.
I think this poem sums up the message really well of how difficult it can be to deal with change.
A poetic interlude: autobiography in three short chapters by Portia Nelson
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I fall in, I am lost………I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault…..it takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the pavement. I see it there.
I still fall in……it’s a habit, my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It’s my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I walk around it……………………………………………………………
…………………………………………….I walk down another street!!
For more information on how Pavlenka can you help you to face change or to find out more about the services she provides, please view her editorial profile on The Mind Sanctuary Directory, or visit her website.