Humans are creatures of habit. We like the same seat at the dinner table or the same seat in a classroom. North Americans tend to prefer their salad first but Parisians tend to prefer it last. The status quo provides comfort and familiarity.
Is it any wonder that so many of us are struggling with the pace of change these days?
When changes are exciting we rally behind them. But when change is foisted upon us, we may feel anxious and resistant.
We have no choice but to embrace change. We live in an era of upheaval; a time of both peril and opportunity. I see it nearly every day in conversations with friends and strangers, and I suspect you do as well. It’s a yearning to let go of the ways we have lived for centuries and to step into new ways of thinking and being.
We yearn to be part of something better – new ways of making a living, of building community, of realizing our potential. We recognize that each of us is a part of some larger thing, an awakening of the human spirit that’s happening simultaneously on every continent. And yet, these big changes are freaking us out. We want the new but are afraid to let go of the tried and true, even when it doesn’t seem to be working.
We elect new voices to speak on our behalf and then become disillusioned if their fresh approach borders on antagonism or is too big a stretch from the familiar or expected points of view.
Change Agents urge, “Let’s go this way – it’s new, it’s sexy, it’s where we need to be.” Traditionalists, however, argue the changes are too extreme and wrought with problems. Resistance grows and conflicts expand. The sides become more polarized, hesitant and uncertain.
Our minds begin to view change as a problem, as a departure from the old – a significant loss, and our brains hate loss. We have a hard time letting go of projects and ideas even when we know the project is growing stagnant. We resist ending doomed relationships because we don’t want to think our effort was all for naught (and yes, that includes employment). We begin to fear a loss of significance or identity. Who are we if we are not successful with this change implementation?
When it comes to navigating change, there is the reality of our experience, and there is our story about it. Fortunately, we get to choose the story.
A friend of mine complains frequently about the weather. It’s usually either too hot or too cold, except when it’s too wet or too dry. The weather is what it is. I can’t change it. But I choose whether I allow my moods to be controlled by it, whether I allow it to make me miserable. And whether I let my friend cause me to feel frustrated.
We always have a choice. Do you willingly change, or do you dig your feet in and refuse, even if it means you might lose your job?
It is natural to resist a change that is being forced upon us. When this happens, give yourself permission to freak out on your own time and then find ways to move forward. When we fixate on what was lost because of the change, it prevents us from experiencing the good things that our new circumstances could initiate.
If anything is clear right now, it’s that we will never return to business as usual. We’re in a time of fundamental restructuring in our economy and in our world. Household names from the corporate world are gone or on the verge of collapse. And we’re going to have to adjust to the new reality.
Change is not an intellectual concept, it is an emotional one. Embrace the conflict as you engage with the adventure that is change.
Steve Jobs was known for leading from this perspective: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer is “No”, then something needs to change.
Troy Media Columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.