Change can be very traumatic. It can be a grieving process, where we mourn the loss of an old way of life, for which we know of no other alternative. Even when we are excited about something changing in our lives, marriage, children or buying a house, that excitment is tinged with apprehension and anxiety. We become nostalgic and a part of us tries to hold on to our old life, as an anchor for the new one.
But we are constantly evolving and changing unconsciously. Every interaction with our world changes us in some way. Such changes are not usually noted consciously, yet they can still leave us feeling a little uneasy, without really knowing why. Somewhere in our subconscious we accept these little changes and we adapt and evolve accordingly. However, when we have to make conscious changes in our lives we flounder and panic. This is because what is needed of us to make real choices about what we have to do.
There are internal struggles that we try to cope with, the part that riggedly believes change will be our downfall and the part that sits on the fence and adapts to change only when it can see profit in it. But even before this change there is that part of us that sees change as necessary and sniffs out growth possibilities for us, even if we are not consciously aware that we are doing so. And buried very deep inside us is that tiny, almost imperceptible part of us that wants to scurry into action.
Sniff and Scurry are really important, they are the catalysts for change, but the resistance in your brain is also important. You’re brain needs to assess change, whether it is necessary or realistic. Yet you should not let the resistance hold you back, nor pander to feelings of insecurity and anxiety. Use resistance to gauge change and as a starting point for making realistic plans to move on. Without this, the Scurry part of our brain will rush about all over the place with no clear direction or idea what it is doing. This will only lead to a lot small failures, that will inevitably prove the resisting part of your brain right and you will end right back where you started.
You may have noticed I’ve personified Sniff and Scurry. This is because they are characters in a video that is embedded below. The resistance part of our brain can be split into two; Hem, who is a staunch advocate for staying exactly how we are and Haw, our late adaptor who accepts the change when he sees how beneficial it is. Watch the video and see how these four components adapt to change.
We can break these skills down so we have a change model we can use on ourselves. First, we must find time to sniff. It is important that we accept that, not only can we change our lives, but we should anticipate that at times change is simply inevitable. We have the power to change the things in our lives that are making us unhappy, and if you’ve read Stay Tuned for Emotional Intelligence and put those ten tips into practice, you may begin to feel the need for change more acutely when it arises. Once you become more emotionally invested in yourself and accept the inevitability of change then change will be less daunting. Make a note to yourselves that the following stages happen in a never ending cycle as we grow, develop new skills, meet new people and take on challenges.
Sniff Out Change – Stay in touch with your feelings and sense when things don’t feel right. Be grounded and pay close attention to your surroundings and watch for changes in the people around you. Being attentive and seeing change on the horizon can help you to avoid those kick in the teeth moments when change happens so fast you can’t do anything about it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about how others are feeling, or of the answer you might get. A simple change in word choice can help in your relationships and bring a better understanding of the stressors of others. Be vigilant and mindful.
Scout for Possibilities – Once you have spotted the need for change on the horizon, you need to begin to take immediate steps. This is the step that many of us get wrong. We see the need for change and make excuses not to do anything about it yet. It can wait. And when the situation we’re in becomes so hard to manage that we begin to panic and feel anxious. If we had just taken some steps toward planning for change the transition would be a lot smoother. Those initial steps are essential to successful change and without them failure is inevitable. Reign in your compulsion to Scurry around for quick fixes. Create a sense of urgency and pull together your resources.
Listen to dissenters – But don’t cling on to them. We tend to listen to those negative voices in our heads that tell us change is futile. It’s because those voices know which of our internal buttons to press. We manipulate ourselves out of make change because our mind likes to be comfortable all the time, and change can be very uncomfortable. But nay-sayers have their place too. They can even help rationalise the choices we make. We need to recognise that the Hem response is simply a need to take stock of where we are and where we plan to be. Playing Devil’s advocate is necessary to change management. However, once we have accepted that this change cannot be avoided, it is important to move beyond Hem and not let it hold us back. Find the best option and develop your vision for change and a strategy to accomplish it. Empower yourself to act and don’t let up.
Visualise Success – What does successful change look like, feel like and mean? If you can’t imagine the answers to this question you may not have a full picture of what the change will mean. Also, if you can’t visualise what success will mean, how can you plan for it? If you have a vision of what the change will mean, it will sustain you when and if things get rough. Remember, you won’t be able to completely silence Hem, but you can help Haw to see and understand the goal. Your mind needs to buy into this change and it won’t unless it is satisfied that you know what you are doing. Visualise success to make it happen.
I hope you find this article useful. It is not just a coping mechanism for change, but is fundamental for us to lead the lives we want. We should be mindful, organised, fearless and visionaries to accept and manage our constantly changing lives. Once we have changed and accepted the change you need to create a sense of a new and improved you, so that you are not tempted to revert to nostalgia.