Like a nagging partner telling us to put our stuff away, change can feel like a chore or worse. Often, our knee-jerk reaction is to see change negatively even when it is bringing something positive like a better paid job. Who hasn’t thought, “This is scary, now I’ve really got to perform, and there’s nowhere to hide!”
If you’ve ever felt like this, you’re in good company.
Psychologists call this our “negative bias” toward change. It is hardwired into us for good evolutionary reasons. For example, by fostering wariness about crossing that unknown river, our ancestors were able to avoid the possible presence of something dangerous lurking just the other side. Fear of change may just save our skin. Probably best to stay precisely where we are, all things considered. If only life were that simple.
In truth we are living through times of rapid change both on a global scale and from an individual perspective. Many businesses no longer risk investing in a five year plans, for instance. Whatever plans they have are likely to be out paced by events within a year or two. Mental flexibility is becoming as crucial to our survival as physical agility was to our ancestors.
So we had just better get on with whatever changes life throws at us and stop complaining, is the ultimate message most guys receive. Those of us who are most adaptable to change are regarded as resilient and confident, compared to those who want things to remain the same. Our culture values “manning up,” not moaning. When we find change confusing or even frightening, we may feel it is hard to share our anxieties, for fear of being seen as weak or unable to cope. These five simple steps can be stashed away in your memory and pulled out when you need to face change with positivity and courage:
1. Acknowledge all your feelings especially the negative ones.
Giving ourselves permission to feel whatever the change makes us feel can be liberating. Tell yourself it’s fine to feel anxious, nervous or fearful. Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel rather than fighting it, often makes the negative feeling less powerful.
How to do this: Write down your feelings about the change ahead both positive and negative. Ask yourself, when have I felt this way before? How did I cope that time? Talk your list through with a trusted friend to find comfort and reassurance.
2. Be prepared.
Think about what the change is likely to look like, learn as much as you can about what you’re facing. Knowledge can be calming, even if it is uncomfortable. Not knowing what is about to happen is much more frightening than knowing.
How to do this: Talk to people who’ve gone through similar changes. Ask them how they coped. Learn from their experiences on how to prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
3. Create a positive mental script.
Statements such as, “I do not like this change, but it is beyond my power to control. I’m learning to accept it and will try and make the best of it,” can powerfully shift our minds to a more positive change-embracing attitude.
How to do this: Mantras and scripts are powerful tools to reprogram your brain to be more accepting of change. Write down phrases and words that feel like powerful talismans for you to face the change ahead.
4. Never forget, you control your attitude and actions.
You can choose to approach the change with anger and take your feelings out on other people, or, more helpfully, you can choose to see the situation as new opportunity and face it with excitement. The choice is yours. We have far more control over our responses to change than we care to admit.
How to do this: Talk to people you trust about your fears and how you intend to combat them. Use your closest support network, often those nearest to us really want to help. Write down your worries and ask yourself how real are they? Challenge yourself to think and act differently to your initial thoughts and feelings.
5. Indulge your sense of humor.
Resilient people (people who cope with change negative or positive the best) are able to laugh in the face of adversity.
How to do this: Tell you story to friends as if it’s a funny story happening to someone else. Find your change situation funny or ironic in some way and you’ll be well placed to dealing with it in a far more balanced way. Are there any books or movies with a plotline involving what you are facing? Find anything you can to help you.