How to Cope with Changes in Life With Grace
Some of us love it. Some of us dread it. I’m guessing you’re not a change enthusiast, or else you wouldn’t be here reading this article.
Hey, I get you. Who doesn’t like the efficiency and the comfort of a well-practiced routine? Our fondness for routine is wired into us, like a thread woven into the fabric of our mind. It’s normal to crave certainty and stability.
But life, as you probably know by now, loves throwing us curve balls. As much we want things to remain the same—and within our sphere of control—they rarely obey our wish. And as a result, we end up feeling anxious, frustrated, or unhappy.
So what can we do to feel better in this world full of constant change?
We may not be a change-lover by nature, but the good news is we can all learn to embrace change.
Keep reading to find out. But first, let’s look at a crucial question—why do we need to adapt to change?
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Why Is It Important to Adapt to Change?
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”
Change is an inevitable part of life.
Sometimes it comes in a huge wave and other times it trickles gently. It could be something as life-changing s a serious health crisis—like the one I had when I was 19—or it could be something relatively minor—like being assigned to a new work team.
No matter what size or impact it has on our lives, one thing is for sure:
We can’t stop change from happening. The only thing we can do is adapt to change.
But what if we don’t adapt? What if we hold on to the status quo defiantly and wave an imaginary fist in the air against the tide of change?
Well…our best answer lies in what happened to those who defied change in the past. History has no shortage of examples of those who failed to adapt. The dinosaurs. The French monarchy. Blackberry. Where are they now?
And I’ve also seen up close what happens to people who refuse to adapt. As a human resources professional, a large percentage of my work involves helping employees deal with change in the workplace. And I can tell you, resistance to change is not a trait that’ll get you that raise, promotion, or recognition. Instead, it could hurt your career.
As sad as it is, when modern organizations are pushed to adapt at a mind-blowing speed themselves, the change-resistors are usually the first ones left behind.
If there’s one thing these examples taught me, it’s this:
Adapt or die.
Okay, you might not “die” like the dinosaurs did, but you get my point.
So how can we deal with changes around us?
Here are 7 steps to help you embrace change without fear or frustration. And be sure to check out the end of this post for more resources to help you cope with change.
Embracing Change With an Open Mind: 7 Steps
1. Accept Your Fear
Does change seem scary to you? Don’t worry, it’s normal to feel this way.
Fear of the unknown is a fundamental fear that is built into us by evolution. Even the best of us can feel apprehensive in the face of the unknown. And what is change? It’s the unfamiliar. The uncertain. Change is the unknown.
So if you’re feeling anxious or frightened by change, don’t feel bad. And don’t try to push these feelings away. Instead, accept them as part of the process. An essential component of embracing change is learning to embrace the emotions you feel along the way.
2. Acquire Knowledge
One of the best ways to cope with any kind of change is to understand as much as you can about it.
You know what they say: information is power. When it comes to change, information really is powerful—it helps reduce uncertainty and promotes a greater feeling of control.
And a sense of control, as I’ve come to learn from my own journey overcoming cancer, is critical to our happiness and wellbeing.
So find out as much as you can about the change (from credible sources of course).
Are you facing a sudden health diagnosis? Learn more about it from your physician, medical journals, or community support groups. Is your company going through an acquisition? Talk to your HR and pay attention to company communications (not the gossip around the water cooler).
The more you understand the change, the more power you’ll have, and the better you’ll feel about it.
3. Stop Venting
“I’m not complaining, I’m just venting.”
At first glance, venting seems like a good idea—after all, isn’t “talking it out” with someone beneficial for our mental health?
Na-uh. At least not from my own experience.
I’ve done a lot of venting myself and I’ve also observed plenty of venting sessions in my line of work as HR, and one thing I’ve learned about venting is that it doesn’t make you feel better. In fact, it can make you feel worse.
Here’s my humble insight on why venting hurts more than it benefits our wellbeing:
- Venting is about expressing negative emotions, not solving problems. The problem still persists after you vent, causing you further grief down the road.
- Venting is like regurgitating a bad lunch. You keep chewing on negative feelings and thoughts instead of letting them go.
- Venting often amplifies tiny, insignificant problems into gigantic issues. You ever notice how when you’re venting, the smallest thing can seem like a huge deal?
And research agrees that venting is bad for us. A study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology shows that venting about negative events make us retain them longer in our memories and increases their emotional impact. As a result, we feel worse.
I’m not going to lie, venting feels so gooooood. When we’re in the midst of a major change, it’s not unusual to feel out of our element. This can lead to anger and frustration. And it’s tempting to voice these feelings to anyone who would listen.
But remember, venting won’t make the change go away, and it won’t make you feel good in the long-term either. Instead, try approaching challenges with a problem-solving mindset and whenever you can, look for the silver lining in the situation.
4. Remind Yourself Where Your Eyes Are Facing
I once heard a line in a random TV show that I can’t recall the name of. And I thought it embodied the kind of attitude we need to adopt in the face of any change.
The line goes something like this:
“Where are our eyes? They’re not on the side or the back of our heads. They’re set at the front facing forward. Why? To remind us to look ahead.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
It’s common for people to compare the “then and now” when change occurs. One remark I often hear is “I wish things could go back to the way they were.”
But time doesn’t flow backward and change rarely reverses itself. All we can do is remind ourselves where our eyes are facing, and remember that that is the direction we should be looking. If we keep looking back, we’ll only hinder our ability to move forward in our lives.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
One important key to embracing change is to set realistic expectations about what you can do and how you’ll feel.
What do I mean by that?
For example, let’s say that you’re starting a new job. That’s a pretty big change, especially if you’d been at your old job for a while. You’d expect that for the first few months you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and disoriented, and you might not perform your best. Later, you’re not shocked when you encounter these situations and feelings. Why? Because you had realistic expectations of what things would be like during this adjustment period.
But if you had expected that you’ll find your groove right away in this new job, you’ll be disappointed and worried when things don’t pan out the way you imagined.
And what’s the best way to set realistic expectations for how you’ll feel in the future? According to Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert, the author of one of my favourite books in the world—Stumbling on Happiness—it’s talking to people who have already gone through a similar experience. So get out there and connect with people who have gone through the type of change you’re facing.Change is an inevitable part of life. If you're struggling with change, here are 7 tips to help you cope with change in your life!
6. Take Small Steps and Focus on Progress
Change can be overwhelming, there’s no doubt about it. You don’t need to add more stress to your life by setting a giant goal for yourself. It’s okay to slow down, take small steps and focus on progress rather than a goal post far off in the distance.
If all you can do today is get up and take a deep breath, so be it. Tomorrow, perhaps you’ll be able to get up, take a deep breath, and make your bed. And the day after that, you may be able to find the strength to take a walk outside. That’s progress, and every step forward—no matter how tiny it seems—deserves a pat on the back. This is how I came to accept the cancer diagnosis that changed my life at the age of 19.
So ask yourself what small step you can take today. Add a bit to it tomorrow, the next day, and the day after the next. Then celebrate your progress along the way. Soon, you’ll feel more at peace with the change you’re going through.
7. Anticipate and Accept Setbacks
Any time you’re dealing with change, you’re going to encounter setbacks and failures. You might make a mistake, take a step backward instead of forward, or come across an obstacle so big you don’t even know where to begin to tackle it.
Setbacks are disappointing and irritating, I get it. But saying “this sucks” isn’t going to help. if we can accept the fact that we’re going to encounter setbacks and proactively plan on how we can address them, we’ll be ready to face them when the time comes. This, in turn, will help us feel more in control, and happier as a result.
More Resources on Embracing Change
Before I end this post, I want to share a few more resources to help you cope with change:
2. Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, Revised 25th Anniversary Edition by William Bridges
That’s it for my tips on how to embrace change without fear or frustration. Now I want to hear from you. Are you a fan of change? And how do you cope with change? Leave me a comment below and we’ll continue the conversation about how to cope with change!