(photo by Elias Scultori – “Change of the Guards”).
If there is one thing we can certainly count on in life, is change. The world is in a constant state of flux – moving, growing, expanding, retracting, renewing. Everyday is different. Every moment is new. Even if we think of ourselves trapped in what seems to be a burdensome routine, new and unexpected events abound, sometimes passing us by unnoticed.
We are masters of change. Change is so inevitable and so constant in our lives that we are all major experts in it without even giving ourselves credit for it. We manage change with such ease and precision that most of the time we don’t even notice it.
Take driving, for example. At every second on the road, something new is happening. A car slows down in front of us, a pothole appears, perhaps an animal tries to cross our way, it may begin to rain – the conditions of the drive are changing at every moment. And how many times do we go through all these changes without even being aware of our actions? How many times have we driven for 10 or 15 minutes without even knowing what we just did, because we were lost in our own thoughts?
Other examples of how masterfully we embrace change are:
The constant change of our bodies – Every day we grow older and a new pain or discomfort appears. If we are still young, our bodies are growing and transforming in ways we don’t even understand. But we still keep going.
The constant change of nature – Today it may be raining, or it may be sunny. It may be allergy season, or the air may be clear and warm. We pick up our umbrellas or we wear flip-flops and we move forward.
The constant change of relationships – And here I’m still talking about stable, “healthy” relationships. Besides the changes happening in our own personal lives, when we are in relationship with others, the change is compounded. Multiply all the changes happening to us, times the number of people we relate to. And we are still here!
So, what is it that makes us panic when something unexpected happens in our lives, when we notice that a major chapter is about to end and something new is coming?
If we are so skillful in the constant changes that happen with us all the time, what is it that makes us struggle when we are forced to embrace major change?
It is not change that we fear. What we fear is what we don’t know and what we don’t seem to have control over. The illusion of control makes all the “normal” changes a mindless task. When we believe we have a certain prediction of what is about to happen, we maneuver, we adjust, sometimes not even noticing what we are doing. It is when we can’t predict, when we can’t seem to see what is coming that we begin to panic and fluster.
One of the great causes of anxiety when facing major change is the fear that we are not going to be able to handle the new chapter. We fear breaking down. We fear being exposed. We fear failure. Can I do it? Am I safe? In our work towards self-preservation and our own self-image, we resist change, when we question our own capabilities to handle it.
And the bottom line is that we don’t want to feel pain. We don’t want to be hurt. Change becomes a challenge when we fear that what is ahead will cause us trouble and distress. Therefore, it must be avoided at all cost.
But remember: Change is inevitable. There is no possibility of life without change!
So, what can we do to more gracefully navigate through this reality of change that seems to be a constant in our lives?
Resisting change will only make it even more difficult. Change is one of those forces of nature we cannot avoid or overcome. Resisting change is resisting life. And when you engage in a battle with it, you will certainly loose. When change comes your way – whether simple or major – embrace it, welcome it, accept it, make it your friend. Know that change is a sign of renewal and growth. Change is a sign that life is going strong and doing what it is supposed to do. It may hurt sometimes but take it as a “growing pain” that is simply trying to bring you to a new chapter and a new day.
Accepting does not mean smothering the feeling of loss. As the new comes in, the old is dying, and that may require a sense of kindness to what is no longer. The old may have been full of life, memories and lessons. Take the time to remember. Take the time to appreciate what was. And also, take the time to let it go. Just like an athlete needs to take a breath after a long run, so we need to take the time to recoup and replenish before we continue.
Fear is an invaluable tool. Without fear we would throw ourselves into danger and not be able to survive. Fear gives us awareness that something needs to be done for us to be safe. Even though a lot of times we will not be able to have all the information and the control we wanted, it is very important to do whatever we can to safeguard the situation. Look around, gather information, take all the steps necessary to feel and be as
grounded as possible. The more you know and the bigger your sense of control (even if control is an illusion), the easier it will be for you to embrace the next chapter.
Believe in yourself. A lot of the times, our fear of change is unfounded. We fear because we are not prepared and because we don’t know if we can handle it. We resist the change because we don’t trust we can do it (and sometimes it’s because we are even lazy to do the work of adjusting.) Trust that you are capable of handling the new. Trust that what is in front of you is a sign of growth and life. Believe that life is conspiring for you – not against you. Mourning does not mean indulging in self-pity. Stand tall and move ahead.
Remember the first warm day of spring when you woke up and you noticed it was warm enough to open up the windows. Remember the fresh air coming in, the sunlight invading the room and you taking a deep, reenergizing breath. Winter is gone and a new season is here. That is the feeling we want to nourish on the other side of change. The transition may be unsettling and hard, but the new chapter brings life, options, opportunities, challenges, growth – and that is what life is all about. Be open to the new lessons. Appreciate what is right here and enjoy the ride.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ICF Professional Certified Coach
Elias Scultori, MM, PCC, PMC is a leadership and diversity coach supporting groups and individuals belonging the broad spectrum of human identities. The focus of his work is in identifying, developing and celebrating the potential and resourcefulness of each person embracing their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, marital status, personality type and/or professional standing. He gives his clients the space and the structure that enables them to refine their voice and to establish a solid place at the table. Elias is a CoachU faculty member, a professional mentor coach and a Coaching Clinic Licensed facilitator.