For someone who dislikes change, I have had more than my fair share over time. I’m lucky. For the most part I have been in the driving seat – choosing change rather than having this forced on me (odd I know for someone who finds change stressful). At present I am adjusting to a new career direction; to suddenly becoming an empty nester and a new grandmother; and rising to the challenge of being part of the “sandwich generation” and caring for aging parents. All this started me thinking about change and what makes some people better at managing change than others? Searching for answers involved quite a bit personal reflection; of my own experience of change, as well as what I think my psychology training considers to be important. The following five steps are the outcome of this. I should be completely truthful here- I’m not necessarily great at following these steps but like most of us, I aspire to do things better and think this is a place to start.
- Firstly, it’s important to accept that change happens, regardless of whether we think it’s a good idea or not. If you hang around for long enough you’re sure to see things change back again! Change is a part of life and if we don’t accept change (or sometimes seek it out) we wouldn’t be making the most of life, or ourselves.
- Accepting change is hard, and requires us to let go of the past. That’s not to say we should forget, particularly if the change has involved the loss of someone, or something important to us. But we should let go of the grief, anger, or resentment that is keeping us in the past and preventing us from moving forward.
- Fear of the unknown keeps many from deciding to make changes to their lives. Who of us hasn’t worried about whether we will cope if things change or if things will be worse than they are currently are? For some, options for change are limited by circumstance, but for most of us options are limited only by our fears and negative self-talk. Of course, change is scary but we mustn’t let our worries decide what we can or can’t do.
- Take back control. It’s liberating to realise that we can improve our mood or outlook on change by thinking differently about it. Instead of letting our fear keep us in unhappy situations we can harness the energy to decide to make things different – and most likely better. We can choose to be excited about change rather than to be fearful, and thereby be motivated to take proactive action.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy reminds us to stay connected to our personal values. Regardless of whether you have sought change or had it forced upon you, make it a priority to ensure the outcomes are consistent with your ideals and goals, or explore ways for this to happen. A useful exercise to help you do this, is to imagine yourself at 80 years old, looking back on your life. Would there be any changes that you regret not making because you spent too much time worrying or too little time doing the things that were important to you?
So, there it is! Five steps to help manage change in your life. Work hard to accept the challenges that life throws you; be brave, be excited, and seek to make change worthwhile. Sounds easy doesn’t it? But of course managing change isn’t always easy and sometimes you might need a bit of support along the way. The Psychologists at Attuned Psychology are here to help you and can be contacted on (08) 83617008 to make an appointment.
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