It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
~W. Edwards Deming
This is a time of year when people often are readying themselves for change. The start of a new year is only days away. You might be thinking about making some New Year’s Resolutions…to finally get around to changing in a significant way. For some of you, it means you’re starting to think about graduating from high school or college or graduate programs…and what comes after that.
For some, it means learning how to live each day without the aid of alcohol, drugs, gambling, or binge-eating addictions. For still others, it means learning how to live without a significant someone in their lives, which truly changes everything.
Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.
~ Robert C. Gallagher
Here’s the deal: everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same. While reassuring yourself of this can be helpful in the bad times, if things are going just the way you want them to, then the idea that everything is going to change is not very reassuring. We are truly creatures of habit. If you don’t think so, just try using a different coffee cup than your favorite one you usually use all day and see how that feels! Trust me. Humans, for the most part, do not like change.
We don’t even like positive changes…at least at first. If you change our phones, our technology, our transportation…even if later we realize how much better it is…at first, we’re not all that happy about it. Why is that? Because we’re going to have to learn a whole new system. We’re going to have to stretch, grow, or adapt. We can’t just keep going through the same old routines and habits that we’re used to…and that we think we like.
The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.
So if we don’t even like the good stuff at first, simply because it’s different from what we’re used to, how in the world are we going to deal with changes that we perceive as really bad or scary? If positive change is hard, coping with a perceived negative change is even harder. But, we have to deal with change, because it is inevitable. You really don’t have a choice whether to deal with it. What you do have a choice about is HOW you decide to deal with it.
To better your chances at dealing with change successfully, a key coping skill that I think everyone should attempt to cultivate is flexibility. A basic dictionary definition of flexibility includes “capable of being bent, usually without breaking.” If change is inevitable, then your ability to survive it intact would be a very good thing, doncha think? 🙂
When you are through changing, you are through.
If flexibility is a virtue, then rigidity and the inability to adapt to change is a major personality flaw. If things have to stay the way they are, or the way you want them to be, in order for you to be okay…then I don’t give you good odds that you’re going to be okay that often. How likely is it that you are going to be able to control circumstances and outcomes to your liking? How likely is it that you are going to be able to prevent things from changing if you like things “just the way they are?”
How likely is that you are going to be able to “have it your way?” Well, to paraphrase one of my heroes, you can have everything you want some of the time or some of the things you want all of the time, but you can rarely have everything you want all of the time.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
So if you can’t guarantee you can have things turn out the way you want them to, it stands to reason you’re going to have to find a way to be okay with whatever happens. How to get okay with change: try not to be so afraid of it…it’s only change, which is something you’ve actually been managing to deal with all your life or you wouldn’t be here today. Challenge yourself to realize you’re a survivor…and you’re going to survive this upcoming change as well.
Try not to get too attached to either the way things were, they way things are now, or the way you want things to be. Not getting attached means being okay with whatever happens…you don’t have to like it…you just have to be able to deal with it. Try to remember that (like the bumper sticker says)…without change we wouldn’t have any butterflies. Decide right now that you’re going to be flexible and move with the flow of life, wherever that takes you. Try to let go of fear and rigidity and need to be in control of things you actually can’t control.
That’s easy for you to say…..
All of this is so much easier to say than to do…but these are just a few starting points for you to jump off of and see how you can personalize them. And remember that if you are interested in making ongoing changes this year, one week at a time, take a look at A Year to Change…a support book that’s going to be released a chapter a week on this website beginning January 1, 2011.
I’ll be right there…I’ve got your back on this one…and we’ll make those changes together!!!
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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