“I like when I plan an event and it takes a turn in a different direction.” “I like when our grocery store is out of my favorite cashew butter and I have to choose something else.” “I really like being forced to do things out of my comfort zone.” Said no one named me, ever.
If there is anything I know about myself, it is, I am a creature of habit. Many, maybe most people are. I like my daily To Do lists, I like my routines, and I like knowing what to expect. Which makes me wonder, how have I managed all these years given that change is inevitable?
From my journal: September 21, 1990, Redondo Beach, California
“I’m getting used to my new last name…what a change! It feels strange but great…less letters, easier to spell and pronounce, too!”
From my journal: May 25, 1992, Los Altos, California
“Miss our home in Oregon a lot, but beginning to like it here..nice weather and less rain.”
From my journal: August 9, 1998, Fountain Hills, Arizona
“Got accepted into the post-Baccalaureate program at ASU! Excited, but nervous…will work during the day and go to school at night…”
From my journal: June 1, 2001, Newbury Park, California
“G.C. offered me a first grade position! Hoped I’d be teaching 5th grade, but so glad to have a job this fall – yay!”
In the past when I thought of change, I didn’t always view it in a positive light. However, over the years, many changes that have occurred in my life have been for the better. Getting married, having various careers, living in different places. All have been broadening experiences and have been “good” changes. So, what is it about the alteration of the status quo I’ve disliked?
Most likely it’s an issue of control. When I choose to make a change, say engaging in a new activity, or modifying my diet, or switching up my exercise routine, I am the one calling the shots. When something causes a change that I have no control over, like the weather not cooperating on a day I want to hike, or a volunteer meeting being scheduled at the last moment, or a cancellation of a lunch date, my tendency is to frown. My reaction stems from the fact that change is a psychological experience. In other words, it requires me to adapt, even if I am the one desiring something different.
Neuroscience tells us that change brings with it uncertainty. In our brains this unpredictability feels a lot like failure because as humans we are wired to find calm in knowing. Knowing what is happening and knowing when it is happening. This serves to protect us and ensures our survival. This may explain why people tend to avoid changes. After all, who wants to feel uncomfortable? Who wants to worry? Who wants to feel unsure?
Because change is ever present, a few years back I started taking steps to change my thoughts and feelings about change. First, I’ve become more curious and now ask myself questions. What opportunity can come from this different situation? What is another way of looking at this event? What can I learn from this new path or course? Second, I’m reminding myself that not knowing an outcome doesn’t mean it will be negative. Six decades of life have taught me that most things I’ve worried about never came to be and that something positive can come from just about anything. Third, whatever I experience becomes my new norm, and whatever changes have occurred have brought me to the place I am right now. Yes, I’ve adapted, yes I’ve grown, and yes, I’ve survived! Even though I still prefer to be in the know, I am learning to be more comfortable with change, because in a world of uncertainty, change is the only real constant there is.