Learning to Embrace Change

Ever notice that some people are more frustrated than others when things don’t go according to their plan?

These are usually the folks who have plotted out how things “are supposed to go” based on a strict cause and effect model. Whether they’re planning a trip across town or the trajectory of their entire lives, they make the mistake of thinking that it is ever possible to achieve a specific result with 100 percent certainty. They fail to factor in the variables and glitches that are almost sure to affect these best-laid plans.

Chances are good you know someone like this. Chances are nearly as good that you’re one of them.

If you’re not one of these folks who plan compulsively in the misguided hope of achieving a reliable, predictable outcome, there was probably a time in your life when you were. Why? Because it’s the human condition! We are all wired to seek stasis. We want to create those “If I do this, then this will happen” moments that we can weave together into a predictable, reliable life that is not threatened by the possibility of change…or anything else.

There’s only one problem. And it’s a big one. Seeking stasis in a world in which the only constant is change is an exercise in futility. Aiming for things to stay static and within our control may be the human default setting, but we need to work on changing that—and that means learning how to embrace change.

Why should we embrace change? Because, at a cellular or global level, change is the only constant in the universe. We can’t alter that simple fact any more than we can change the direction of the planets or the flow of the ocean tides.

Recognizing that perpetual, ongoing change is the natural order of things is the first step in getting to a place where you can begin to embrace it. Still need convincing that the world is an ever-evolving place and that the things that drive your life are constantly changing? I suggest that you complete the following exercise:

Scroll back in your calendar app to this date last year. Look at what was happening on this day and a few days before and after. The appointments you had, the phone numbers you called and the notes you made are proof that you are not in the same place today you were 365 days ago. You may not feel as if much has changed, but when you review what was driving your life a year ago, you will quickly see that the same forces are likely not at work today. For most people, this exercise turns out to be an excellent example of how transient life really is, and how steadily life is changing whether we are cognizant of it or not.

Once we acknowledge that we are hard-wired for stasis when change is the natural order of the universe, we become more motivated to learn how to embrace change. While there’s no formula for this, and you don’t learn how to lean into change overnight, you can start to coach yourself around this concept.

Think of it as an orientation toward change. Most people have heard the cautionary, motivational quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher that says, ““Watch your thoughts, for they become your actions. Watch your actions, for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.”

Everything from this wisdom stems from controlling how we think, so pay attention to the thoughts surrounding change that enter your mind. Try reformatting thoughts like “These changes are disrupting everything” to “These unexpected circumstances are giving me the opportunity to…(fill in the blank).” Just thinking differently about change makes a difference in how we think about it. Redirecting your thoughts leads to powerful results.

The ability to convert “Why is this always happening to me?!” to “It is what it is; what can I learn from this?” is life-changing and will ultimately allow us to direct our lives more fully than indulging in a day-to-day battle to keep changes from occurring.