We hate change. Well, almost all of us do. We like our lives the way they are, no? Even when we’re bored (or slowly dying) with our jobs or houses or god forbid, mates, life itself becomes a habit. And we are fairly loathe to change habits, even if we know they’ll kill us.
Sometimes change is thrust upon us. We get fired. The house burns down. The doctor says if you don’t change your health lifestyle, you’re going to die. The mate proves untrustworthy or suddenly leaves. You know how those situations go, and you’re left to deal with a huge disruption to your day-to-day world, and coping with stress as well.
Sheesh! Makes you want to go have a bowl of ice cream. Which I heartily recommend. Unless of course your particular issue is that diet-and-exercise thing. Then that ice-cream treat comes a bit further down the road.
Once the smoke clears on conflagration before you, you’re left with how to deal with change. And a lot of methods exist for that, but two specific ways always help me to get off the pity pot and onto the steps needed for success.
First and foremost, I have to get my mind right. And that’s tough to do with a mind that’s resisting at every turn. But what, exactly, am I resisting? When you’re bathed in stress hormones, digging down to discern the specific (and actual) change-issue can be nearly impossible. Adrenaline, cortisol, and Norepinephrine aren’t terribly conducive to introspection. Fight or flight, you bet’cha. But identifying the exact reason I’m resisting whatever change, well, can’t get there with a cortisol-infused brain.
A great technique exists to help diffuse this. Right then, take a mental step back, and become the observer of your life. Just as an anthropologist might study a contained group—dispassionately—observe all the characters in your personal play. Ever notice how there’s more than one loud voice vying to speak? Listen to each one of those as well.
I do this in third person. As I back off, I see myself reacting. And have the simple thought: There goes Susan seeing that all is lost again. (Which is a knee-jerk reaction I still do.)
But that’s it. Just observe. No judgment, no condemnation, no “fixing” things. Just observe.
Quite often that screaming little child just needs to be heard. And that’s it.
The main thing is, I’m always amazed at how this technique is the path for how to deal with stress. Simply, it diffuses the situation, takes the emotion out, and helps clear the head in order to sharpen the vision.
Once I’m able to do this (and it works every time), I can then begin to formulate a plan. Which makes me feel more in charge. Which reinforces that this change will be a good thing, no matter how it came about.
And which leads to step two. We know from Sociologist B.F. Skinner’s early research that for permanent change to be achieved (and that’s the plan, no?), a system of punishments for not doing whatever doesn’t work. You know that drill. The: If I don’t go to the gym, I can’t have that ice cream. It may work once. But that’s a great prescription for falling off the wagon. What Skinner found does work, is instead a system of reinforcement.
The easiest way I know to effect this is to admire the results. Where it comes to the gym, this one’s easy: See yourself fit and healthy. Feel how good that feels, how much energy you have. But you can translate that into any area of your life. Got evicted from your apartment and have to go through the rigors of finding another place to live? See yourself happy in that new place. That’ll get you to charting the steps needed. And once you take the first one, the others become easier.
The second side of reinforcement brings you a reward. A planned one. The: If I get through two weeks at the gym, I can buy that cute workout shirt I saw the other day. (And on that note, the reward works at its optimum if it plays into the goal!)
By observing my emotions, clearing my head, then formulating a plan filled with reinforcement, change becomes, while not exactly easy, at least much more manageable.
And before you know it, you’re flying far ahead to your goal.
How do you deal with change?