“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”— George Bernard Shaw
What’s your approach to change?
We experience all kinds of change in our lives: Change we like that we call positive. Change we hate that we label negative. Change that we instigate intentionally. Change that someone else foists on us. Change that is natural and expected (even if we’re not crazy about it). Change that hits us out of nowhere.
And to each of those changes, we each have a certain basic approach. We embrace change or reject it. We rejoice in change or we call it all kinds of ugly names. We’re afraid of change or eager for it. We feel victimized by change or responsible for it. We dread change or we feel energized by it.
What’s interesting is that people’s approach to change is similar no matter what the change is. For example, someone who tends to fear change will even get anxious over positive change: “Uh oh. By winning this lottery, will I lose all my friends? Will bad guys try to steal it from me? Will I have to give up who I am?” On the flip side, someone who embraces change with enthusiasm will find a way to embrace even a negative situation: “This diagnosis is just calling me to be healthier in my life style and be more compassionate with others.”
No matter what your particular basic approach is, one thing is certain when it comes to change: As the Borg on Star Trek used to say,
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived around 500 BC, wrote “Change is the only constant in life.” Yep, it’s part of life. It was true two thousand years ago, and if anything, changes seem to be coming at us faster now. Without a healthy relationship to change, we’re likely to get bowled over by all the changes blasting toward us. Like standing in the middle of rush hour on the freeway, that incoming traffic is more likely to win than our resistant stance.
The interesting thing about change is that the longer we avoid the change (especially changes we know we need to make), the more uncomfortable it feels. And it’s often at the point of great discomfort that the universe decides to step in and clobber us with a cosmic 2 X 4. “You don’t want to leave that job that’s stressing you out? Okay. BAM! How about if we just have your back go out on you so you have to quit?” Or “So you won’t forgive the person who betrayed you? Fine, let’s bring a few more betrayers into your life until you get the point.”
Can you change your basic approach to change? Yes.
Last month, I wrote about what neuro linguistic programming or NLP calls “strategies.” Your basic approach to change is just a strategy you’ve chosen or learned. When you become aware of the sequence of steps in your strategy, you can choose different steps or a different sequence. If your basic approach, your strategy, for dealing with change isn’t working for you, you can change it. How?
Start by reviewing and jot down the steps and sequence of your current strategy for dealing with change. Next, devise a strategy that might give you better results. Here are some examples to get you started:
Maybe your current basic approach to change is to feel afraid of it. Your current strategy might be:
Step One: Visual (imagining all the bad things that might happen with this change) Step Two: Feeling (a sense of nervousness in your abdomen) Step Three: Auditory (listening to others’ complaints about the change) and Step Four: Internal Dialogue (telling yourself this change will hurt you). Congratulations! With this strategy, you can be in a full-blown panic in no time!
Or say your approach toward change is to avoid it as long as you can. Your strategy for that might be:
Step One: Auditory (listen to what everyone around you says about the change). Step Two: Feeling (feel a sense of confusion and uncertainty). Step Three: Internal Dialogue (tell yourself you’ll deal with it later when you feel more certain). This is a strategy that can loop forever. You haven’t rejected the change but you also haven’t accepted it. You simply remain indecisive long past the time when you should make a decision.
If your strategy toward change isn’t working for you, an alternative strategy might be:
Step One: Internal Dialogue (telling yourself things like “We’re only given what we can handle” and “Change is how we learn and grow” or “Change is natural and good.” Step Two: Feeling (becoming aware of your breathing and taking some deep breaths) Step Three: Visual (remembering all the times that change has been positive in your life and times when you handled it confidently) Step Four: Visual (imagining the best possible outcome from this current change).
Change will always be part of your life. Take the time to make sure you have the best possible approach to it!
There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles. – Stephen Covey
To your TOTAL empowerment!
Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.