Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.....(An article written for the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition
Change. It’s all around us, every day. Take, for instance, the change from 2011 to 2012. How many resolutions did you make this week? "In 2012 I will workout more, I will become more focused on my family, I will look for a new job, I will get a handle on my stress level.”
Thoughts this time of the year lean heavily towards "change.” In fact, every year, we promise ourselves that something we are currently doing currently needs to be done differently. We concentrate on changing our behavior, our habits, doing more, doing less. We vow to "change.” And often we fail…why? Because we are asking ourselves to do the one thing our body is hardwired to NOT do….change.
As a Performance Life Coach, I spend a great deal of time with my clients focusing on change they desire, or navigating change made for them. And one thing is for sure, change is inevitable. Change has always been a necessary aspect of life and work, and our world is changing rapidly.
Change is "the act or instance of making or becoming different.” We make thousands of changes everyday. We change our mind, our clothes, our thoughts, our focus, our attention, and professionally, we even change words everyday (think spell check… Change, Ignore, Change All, Ignore All…). In our lives, we have the same choices as the computer options – to ignore the change or embrace the change. But changing the spelling of words is easy compared to changing behavior patterns. Changing our behaviors, and how we think, how we feel, our jobs, our partners, or our location can be some of the largest fears we face in life.
For each of us, our success and well-being depends on how well we adapt to change. How we emerge on the other side of change is based on how well we navigate through the change. And let’s be honest, most of us are NOT good at navigating change. Without conscious thought, we either sail through changes in our lives or the change in front of us leaves us paralyzed. And the end result can often leave us missing an opportunity that was knocking on our door.
"The key to change…is to let go of fear.” - Rosanne Cash
Why are we so reluctant to address—or even admit—change in our lives? Because change is hard, dangerous, scary, tiring, frustrating and repetitious. Even positive change such as getting married, having a baby, or getting that "dream job” can generate a great deal of fear.
With change, you are blind to what is coming next. Most people thrive on predictability, sureness; the security of knowing what is around the corner. Change means stepping into the unknown and losing that security, leading to paralysis.
Change also means giving up control, which can create enormous fear. When you are not in control, you lose your sense of invulnerability and quickly see you are less powerful than you thought. So to avoid feeling out of control, you hunker down and ignore the change in front of you.
But change doesn’t just evoke emotional responses. Neurologically and physiologically, our bodies and mind do not want change either, except if it’s to avoid pain. When your mind detects a difference between an existing condition and a new condition, it produces an "error” signal. The error signal received by the amygdala (the prehistoric part of the brain that tells us to be wary of saber toothed tigers) sounds an alarm producing the emotion of fear. The prefrontal cortex receives the fear signal and creates what it believes to be the necessary response—typically "stay away, stay far far away.”
"If you don’t create change, change will create you.”
There is a beauty in our own chaos. Change is disruptive and our own chaos is safer. People choose to stay unhappy because they fear change. Even if you are profoundly unhappy you are, change is scarier because the unknown of the change feels larger than the unhappiness we are feeling.
Change also takes time and patience and in today’s "do it now society”, change often comes too slow so we give up quickly.
But by avoiding change, we create even bigger problems, such as lost opportunities, broken relationships, or an unhappiness that cuts to the core. Major changes in people’s lives can be painful, so those changes are fought until people reach their misery threshold and then reluctantly do something rash to escape a bad situation.
What would it be like if you could face change from the beginning? Or even, embrace change?
"Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have trying to change others.”
The key to navigating change is to know what stage of change you are in. People react, respond and adjust to change in a sequence of six predictable stages, deemed The Change Cycle.
The first stage, where a great deal of stress occurs, is around loss, specifically the loss of safety, security, or the loss of something known. Loss, chosen or not, affects our bodies deeply, and often this is where we choose the "Ignore” button in our own change navigation. We get a quick peek at change coming and we high tail it the other direction.
But navigating change is not as impossible as it sounds. And, even better news, you can reduce the discomfort, fear, and stress caused by changes in your life if you are aware of them, aware of how you are reacting to them, and consciously exploring your options without automatically running the other way.
Throughout 2012, OIWC will address the topic of change. We will uncover what your comfort level is with change and use that information to begin to navigate your change. And we will help you identify where you are in The Change Cycle, because knowing where you are and were you are headed are important to feeling secure. If you are ready to consciously hit the "Change” button in 2012, then stay tuned…. OIWC will show you how.
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