There is a fundamental dilemma in the human condition. It’s about change. We desire it, but also fear it. It’s an inevitable part of life, yet we often “kick and scream” our way through it.
As a society, we are obsessed with change—changing ourselves and others. Just look at the hundreds of blog posts, articles and infomercials touting all sorts of advice on how to live a better, happier, sexier or richer life.
With all this free advice, how come most of us are still stuck in our old ways of being, holding onto what we know, avoiding change and the possibility of personal growth?
The fault lies in our brains. We are wired for safety and predictability, even though we secretly desire danger and excitement. We crave newness but also fear it. Why this internal conflict?
As children, we had to learn that mother, whom we depended on for safety, was not always there. Hungry, wet or tired, we had to cry to get her attention. The time between our feelings of hunger and the warmth of her embrace felt like an eternity. Even if mum carried a baby monitor 24/7, the anxiety of separation made us feel vulnerable and afraid. Our brain registered these emotions. As adults, we repeat this dance of danger and safety in an attempt to refind our lost attachment to our early caretaker.
We know that life is not about avoiding challenges; we had to face separation and loss. It is an inevitable part of life. Aside from death and taxes, everything is uncertain. So how can we make it easier to accept that safety is an illusion, and change is the norm? Whether dealing with marital conflict or a divorce, starting college, getting married, changing careers, becoming a new parent, or just growing older—adapting to change requires work.
Here are few tips to help you stand up to your primitive brain and navigate life’s transitions with grace:
- Realize that change or loss may make you feel scared and anxious, even depressed. These are normal feelings and part of the process. The key is knowing that relief will come, although it may not be exactly what you expected. Mother may not show up with a warm embrace, but the best of you, will.
- Travel through to the other side. Visualize where you want to be. This allows you to see the opportunities that change unveils. Look at how you may interfere with your life goals by seeking certainty and stability. Even the most difficult transitions provide opportunities for being and doing more than we thought possible.
- Reach out for support. Talk with someone who has gone through a similar situation. Transitions are part of the human condition. Remember that you are not alone and your feelings are normal.
- Reflect on your experiences. Take your time. Don’t feel you have to rush through the process. Stay with what’s happening, but don’t get attached to your emotions. Everything passes, even your discomfort. Reframe your feelings of anxiety as preparing for a bold step forward.
- Know yourself and how you have successfully navigated other changes in the past. Concentrate on all the successful transitions you have made in your life. Take credit for your resiliency.
As young children, we had to learn to love and let go. Each transition is another opportunity to grow and test our resiliency. You can face your fear of change without letting it hold you back.