Change – that scary, six-letter word that for many immediately evokes a sense of unease.
Unfortunately, no one is immune to change – we all must endure it from time to time. Take me for example. Recently, I walked into my local Starbucks, and just as I have done for months, asked for my “regular” order.
My request was met with a concerned look from the Barista, who replied, “I’m sorry Ashleigh, we no longer serve that; we have changed our menu”. Excusez-moi? Changed your menu? Why was I not consulted? Ok, so I may be a little more sensitive to change than most; however, this anxiety and concern that we have toward change is universal.
Where does this feeling of unease, of hesitancy originate? Perhaps, it is because humans are creatures of habit. We find comfort in regularity. When something out of the ordinary presents itself, we are often forced to dig deep and make a U-turn instead of going forward, which can be jarring, or at the very least, inconvenient. Suddenly, the comfort of familiarity is gone and we are left uncertain of the future.
According to psychiatrist, Dr. James Gordon, the inconvenience of change is buried deep in our psyche. Change is inconvenient because psychologically, we are fearful of the unknown. Socially, we are conditioned to believe that the unknown is a dangerous place and that we should do whatever it takes to remain in familiar territory. In essence, our aversion to change is ingrained in us from an early age.
The ancient philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus had quite a lot to say on the subject of change. In fact, he was famous for his insistence that ever-present change is the fundamental essence of the universe, evidenced by his famous words, “no man ever steps in the same river twice.”
Heraclitus was born into a wealthy family, Donald Trump-style wealth, but renounced his fortune to live in the mountains. There, he had plenty of time to reflect on the natural world. He observed that nature is in a state of continual flux. He noted that, “cold things grow hot, the hot cools, the wet dries, the parched moistens.” Everything is constantly shifting into something “other than what it once was”.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and boy, was that Heraclitus right – we are still changing. The world’s climate is shifting, the global economy is fluctuating and closer to home, my life has been changing.
While I will not discuss the finer details of these changes today, suffice it to say that I have endured significant change in both my personal and professional life over the last year. Some of this change has been self-induced, and some frankly, just happened – completely out of my control (my favourite).
In the first half of 2017, I took a ride on the rollercoaster of emotion (for all my Ron Burgundy fans out there) – frustration, hurt, grief – I rode them all. In fact, there were moments where Pearls, Lace and Grace, was, well, missing the latter – at least in private that is.
Being well into these changes now, I have been able to look back on it all through a clearer lens, and reflect on what helped me to manage all of these changes as graciously as possible.
With that said, today I offer you five ways to weather the storm that is change, and maybe even come out stronger on the other side:
Indulge in Self-Care
When change occurs, major or minor, it can often feel like you are in free fall, and that’s ok. In an effort to absorb some of the shock, it is imperative that one take steps to ensure they are well taken care of. Prepare nutritious meals, listen to your favourite music, read the book that has been sitting on your nightstand for a month. Indulge in acts that make you feel good, that ground you, and that remind you that not everything is changing.
Take Stock of Your Strength
When faced with change, it can be easy to forget that you have been there before, so why not remind yourself now? Take a seat and identify the three biggest changes you have encountered in your life thus far. Looking back, identify how you grew as a result of that change, and what you learned from that experience. This exercise worked wonders for me, as it reminded me that I have weathered much bigger change than this, and it have me the confidence to know I would come out on the other side strong than before. Keep those notes with you (preferably in a journal) to build you up when the stress of the change becomes a little too much to bare.
Seek Out New Perspectives
Have you ever heard of the “don’t know” mind? Zen practitioners work to develop this mindset, which in essence, is to assume they don’t know anything and therefore, continue to see the world fresh. This is an interesting way to approach change, as we often have preconceived notions of how something might turn out. Viewing the change from a “don’t know” perspective, allows one to see it as an opportunity to start fresh, to consider all possibilities.
When the change becomes overwhelming, and you feel you cannot overcome it, step away and give your mind an opportunity to process it. When change happens at home or at work, it is often on the minds of everyone involved, which can be difficult to discuss over and over, especially if the change is out of everyone’s control. You can physically remove yourself from the situation for a while (not forever), maybe take a walk or engage in an activity that is completely unrelated. You can also respectfully request that any unnecessary discussion of the change be tabled for a period of time. Whatever it takes to refocus your brain and give your mind some relief.
Shed Your Old Skin
This one is both literal and figurative. If you can’t do anything about the current change, then take control and change something else! Have been putting off cleaning out that spare room? Take this opportunity to discard anything that no longer serves you. Similarly, maybe it is time to discard tired ideas or old routines. Change is an opportunity to embrace an evolved you!
Heraclitus said life is like a river (not to be confused with Forrest Gump, who said life is like a box of chocolates). “The peaks and troughs, pits and swirls are all part of the ride.”
I thought about my philosopher friend that next time I went to Starbucks, and with the help of my Barista, I decided that it was time to take my own advice and embrace the unknown. I took elements of that old beverage, added a few new ingredients and created a new drink. As I took my first sip, the Barista said, “Well, how is it?” My response, “change tastes good!”