Change | Daily Mindful Moment #13
How do you respond to change? How do you navigate transition periods in your life?
Maybe this is something you think you already know about yourself. Maybe you are immediately thinking, "Oh, I don't mind uncertainty and newness. I navigate change well." or "Change is actually really hard for me."
I have a friend who is self-proclaimed "bad at change." But, surely, being "good" or "bad" at change isn't itself an unchangeable personality trait, right? Labels and language can be so helpful for understanding ourselves better, but if we get too invested in the labels we have given ourselves, then we might forget that we can change them.
Let's talk about language some more...
The words that we use to describe ourselves are helpful, but how are we using them? You can keep those helpful labels, but change the way you relate to them by how you use them.
Instead of, "I am bad at change" try, "I struggle in times of change and uncertainty."
Instead of, "I am a planner. I am not spontaneous" try, "I prefer to make plans in advance. I find it harder to be spontaneous."
Fill in the blank with your own example. What is a way that you describe yourself that you could rephrase?
Instead of, "I am _______" try, "I (verb) with _______."
This slight change in language actually makes a huge difference. When we say that we "are" something, that makes it feel a lot harder to change that thing. But, if that thing is something we do, something that is outside of ourselves, it might start to feel easier to make changes.
So, maybe you think you are "bad at change," but what if you just "find change hard"? What does that mean to you? What does that change for you?
I imagine that if you are someone who struggles in times of transition, you might feel overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain. What else do you experience in times of change?
It makes sense that times of transition feel like a threat to our stability. Everything we thought we knew may have been thrown out the window, or the life we had may have been completely flipped on its head. Let me be clear that it is not wrong to struggle in times of change. It is not wrong to feel anxious or stressed out in these situations.
However, for me, a lot of the time that stress doesn't serve me. It doesn't feel good to be in a heightened state of anxiety for a long period of time. And since I experience strong emotions physically it's not sustainable for my body either. So, I don't need to "fix" who I am, but I can address things I struggle with in order to give myself more peace in my life.
What are some characteristics of people you see as being "good at change"?
Flexibility? Levelheadedness? Intelligence? Optimism?
What if you were capable of having all of these things, too?
Again, these qualities are not something we are, but something we might be using in a given moment. No one is keeping "flexibility" from you (other than perhaps yourself).
Believe it or not, you already have all the tools to navigate change more effectively and peacefully right at your fingertips. I think the tools to navigate change better include:
What other tools would be useful in better navigating change?
The thing that all these have in common is that they are directly related to the Coordinated Management of Meaning theory. These are all values and qualities that CMM says help us in the process of making a better social world. In my mind, changing how I approach change is part of creating a better social world (even if it is just for myself).
Another thing that makes this a CMM-ish way of thinking is the very idea that we can make choices about how we approach uncertainties like transitions. Think of this whole post through that CMM lens... We can easily find ourselves stuck in Unwanted Repetitive Patterns (URP) that make us feel incapable of handling stressful transitions. In order to become aware of these patterns, we can ask ourselves, "How did this get made?" Through reflecting we can see how we came to create the meaning that we did around change. Why do we associate change with stress? Why do we think we have to be panicked when new things are happening? At that point, we are able to ask ourselves, "What are we making, now?" and "What can we do to create better social worlds in the future?" This is the point of choice! In one hand we hold our old ways of being, those URPs; in the other hand, we hold our ideas about what a new way of being could look like. It is this moment where we get to choose how we want to continue.
If you are anything like me, then you were missing the moment of asking yourself the question: Why do I think making myself sick with worry is my only option right now? Now, I know it's not as simple as saying, "Just choose to act different!" The real process of shedding stress in favor of flexibility and overwhelm for calm in times of change doesn't happen overnight. But even just considering that you have choices and can make real changes that will affect your real life in your real social world give you so much more power!
Reflect on a period of transition in your life. What did that time feel like? What is you memory of how you acted during that time? What do you like about how you handled that change? What do you wish you did differently?
Consider a period of transition you are in now, or one that you are anticipating happening soon. How do you want to act? What is the best outcome you can envision for yourself? What if you let yourself believe that you are not shackled to stress and worry?
How can you let these ideas plant seeds in you that blossom into those new ways of being?
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