A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed by change. Nothing in my life was changing, however: The changes were happening to the people around me. My father was recovering from a life-threatening accident. My brother was moving in with his girlfriend. My sister broke up with her boyfriend. My best friend was quitting her job to travel the world. Another good friend announced her second pregnancy. All of a sudden, everyone around me was going through a major life change. Emotions flooded through me and I felt like Jo March in Little Women.
Why must everything change? Why can’t everything stay the same? I cried to my therapist.
But then I was overcome with another fear: Do I need to make a life change now, since everyone else is? That’s when my therapist said, “Katie, one of the only constant things in life is change.” It’s true. Everything, from the style of jeans to the shows on television, are constantly changing. So why is it so hard to accept change when it occurs? If life is all about changes, and the changes define who we become, why can’t we understand it, anticipate it, and move on? Clearly I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject, and I’ve discovered some interesting things along the way.
Wondering what I’ve learned? Here is the secret to accepting change.
Change is scary, but we should not be so fearful of it. Why is it scary? Because it is unknown. Humans naturally crave comfort and only think to change when something is not right. How many times have you heard—or used—the saying "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?" There is a misconception that change should only happen when something (a relationship, job, living arrangement) is broken and needs to be fixed.
Sometimes we need to make a change but feel too scared of the unknown to do anything about it. A person in a bad relationship is desperate for change but too afraid of being alone that they do nothing. Don’t let fear dictate your life. While the initial change will be hard, the resulting outcome could be more rewarding than you ever imagined.
In order to accept change and not be afraid of it, you have to be comfortable with the unknown. You don’t always know the outcome of certain things. Quitting your steady job to work on the app you’ve been dreaming of is a major change. The outcome—the success of the app—is yet to be determined. It could be great or it could fail. Being able to be comfortable in this state of uncertainty is necessary to accept change.
Part of my problem with change is that I'm looking at it from a pessimistic point of view. For example, my brother had an amazing apartment, and when I heard he was leaving it to move in with his girlfriend, I immediately thought that he could never find a place that was a nice as where he currently lived. I was thinking about the change negatively. Luckily, I was wrong, and his new place is actually nicer than his old place! To accept change, you have to realize that it's not always bad.
Have you ever bashed a friend who was making a change? Did you talk about their new passion with disdain? I have. When one of my best single girlfriends decided to move out of the city, I was shocked. I was negatively judging her for taking a different and unexpected path. But looking back, I was really scared of the change.
She lived within walking distance of my house, and we hung out a lot. When she moved across the San Francisco Bay, my life would change, too. I wouldn’t be able to hang out with her after work on a random Monday. If I wanted to see her, I would have to make advance plans. One of the reasons people don’t make positive changes is that they are worried about what other people will think of them. We should embrace and encourage their decision, even if it will bring change to our lives.
Sometimes change happens to us. You get laid off from a job, or your boyfriend dumps you. In these instances, the change is forced upon you and you have no control over it. It’s a shock, and you may feel blindsided. You may think that you will get back together, or you may spend hours trying to figure out what you did wrong or what you could have done to make the outcome different, but in the end you just have to move on. When change is unwelcome, it’s crucial to grieve the loss, then accept it and move on.
When a change initially occurs, it can feel like you are losing something—a friend or a job. But you don’t know what will happen in the future. What could feel like a loss now could end up being a win later. Life is constantly moving forward, and nine times out of 10, you'll look back years later and think, "Thank goodness I made that change," or "That change was so hard at the time, but it was necessary to lead me to the better, more positive place I am today."
To learn more about accepting change, refer to the following four books.
How do you accept change? Are you comfortable with it?