Recently I’ve had a couple of conversations about change.
In one I said, ‘I don’t know what I’m worried about, change is so constant for me, I’m used to this.’
Context: wondering whether I had capacity to take on something new with all the change happening in the next few months.
In the second conversation, we talked about needing to be aware of our limits with change even when it’s welcomed.
They say the only constant is change.
And for me, that is so true.
Three years ago:
- I was made redundant
- Had a long term relationship end
- Had a visa to continue living in London get rejected
- Moved back to New Zealand at the start of a global pandemic
Two years ago:
- I started the most incredible job in IT
- Moved back to the city
- Bought a house
In the past year:
- I’ve qualified as a life coach
- Started my coaching business and worked with amazing clients
- Had two wonderful flatmates come and go from living in my lovely little house
- And the best bit! I fell madly in love with a man who is far better than I ever could have imagined. He exceeds expectations every single day.
And now there are new shifts on the horizon.
One thing to point out here is the shift in trajectory over those three years. It starts out rough (and it really was rough) and it’s gotten better and better with time.
So what have I learnt from all of that?
Change is hard. Duh! Even when we choose it, change brings up all sorts of stuff we didn’t expect.
We have both more control and less control than we think.
We have less control in the respect that there’s no predicting what is going to surface.
When I bought my house, I wasn’t expecting to be weirded out by the idea of putting down roots. Living in one place for the foreseeable future (like years) was so odd for me after moving something like 20 times in 10 years.
I wasn’t expecting to feel such a weight of responsibility. I have this whole house and now I have to sort out anything that happens to it.
I was less shocked by how lonely I felt but I still had to grieve the part of me that always thought I would be buying a house with a partner.
I love my little house. I was ecstatic to buy it and am still so grateful, probably even more grateful over a year later.
But emotions aren’t clearcut, neat things and there were some messy, unexpected feelings to process all the same.
And that’s the part we have control over.
I could (and can) choose how I react to those thoughts and feelings.
I chose to observe what came up.
I chose to be curious about my experience.
And I chose not to let it mean anything about me.
The challenge with change is the uncertainty leads to all sorts of creative stories.
As our brains attempt to fill in the blanks, they craft wild narratives about what’s happening and who we are in it all.
I don’t really remember the specifics of the stories my brain was proposing when I bought my house but I imagine the thoughts that crossed my mind sounded like:
“You’ll be single forever.”
“You’re a loser buying a house alone.”
“You won’t be able to take care of a house by yourself.”
“You should be so happy. There’s something wrong with you that you feel anything other than immense joy.”
Even writing that out, I’m half laughing at how completely preposterous it all sounds.
But we’ve all been there right? Caught ourselves believing in the nonsense.
Because it’s really persistent. And convincing. And REALLY creative and sneaky.
So the first thing with change is you have to watch the stories you’re telling yourself.
The simplest way to cut through that noise is to ask:
“Is this true? What is an irrefutable fact? What do I know for sure?”
When you question the stories, the plot holes turn up pretty quickly.
The second thing about change goes back to what we DON’T have control over. In particular when we TRY to control those things.
I talked about the unexpected emotional things that can come up with change.
And there’s simply the unexpected change. The breakups. The redundancies. The visas that are rejected. Having to move house for whatever reason you didn’t see coming.
Or on the smaller scale, the things that aren’t panning out the way you wanted them too or thought they would. Not getting the promotion you were up for or the house you wanted to buy. Struggling to find a suitable flatmate. Or even your size being sold out in that cute dress which is perfect for an upcoming event.
In those moments, the instinct is to try harder. To force your way to the outcome. To fixate on the way you had in mind being the ONLY acceptable outcome. So you get rigid in your thinking and in your actions.
A few things play out from this point.
You’re closed off from all other possibilities.
You’re a pain in the proverbial to be around and your relationships suffer.
You still don’t get what you want. The change still doesn’t unfold according to your perfect plan.
So you’re expending all of that forceful energy to get what? Only make it harder.
There are two steps to breaking that cycle:
- Accept EXACTLY where you are.
- Opening up to other possibilities.
Acceptance of your situation also comes from focusing on the facts, not the stories. When you face where you’re at and what is going on, you can evaluate clearly.
The emotion starts to drop. You soften. You are no longer fighting with reality.
Because that’s what rigidity is, wishing something was different than it is. You can’t win that fight.
With acceptance, you start to see objectively.
I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be with me.
I loved the team I would be working with on that job but I’m not sure I’d enjoy the project they’re working on.
The kitchen in that house needed to be redone and I think I’d rather move in somewhere that didn’t need any work.
You start to evaluate the information you’ve gathered and redirect.
There you find space for new possibilities. To entertain other options. To open up to something even better.
And that’s how you navigate unexpected change. Understand it is what it is and allow for the possibility that it’s leading to something much greater than you can imagine right now.