May 15, 2014

How to Make Change…A Positive Experience

What feeling do you get when you think about making change?

If it’s at work, your reaction could be “Here we go again!”, “It seems like we just changed that!”, “This must be the new flavor of the day”, and many more thoughts of disbelief or being ready for what you consider “stability”.

Depending on your circumstances at home, change could happen rarely, or very frequently. If it’s just the two of you (or even just you!), change may come rarely or happen at a rate that you dictate. If you have a child, or several children, you can bet that change is a constant in your household. If you are a family made of children from two or more families, strap your seat belt on! You’re on the ride called the “Roller Coaster of Change”!

I’m going to share with you several things that you can do to help mitigate the impact that constant and unexpected change will have on you. Why is this important? Just suppose that change meant something positive to you. Consider how that would affect your stress level and you mental and physical health. If lowering your stress level and increasing your mental and physical health are important to you, please read on.

First, think about how change causes you stress. When you consider it, you discover that there is a meaning, an association, a link, a trigger or anchor, which you have given to change. It’s much like a mathematical equation; if this happens, then this is the result. “If things don’t go as I planned, then nothing is right.” “If one thing in my plan is disrupted, then nothing works out in the rest of the plan.” It’s much like saying, “The way I have planned it is the only way it will work.” At work, it could be something like this; “If they change that, then I will have to work harder.” “When they make that change, it means _________.” Do you see the association that we many times make with change? Why do we make that association? Here are a few reasons I have found:
1. A learned response. As children, we watched our parents’ behaviors and attitudes. If we saw them become upset because things didn’t go as they planned, we learned that as the correct response to change.
2. A learned association. We had several times, maybe even just one traumatic time, in which change caused something happen that we labeled as “bad”, “horrible”, “unacceptable”, or some other term. Using the “If-Then” statement, our neurons have made the association of “If this happens (change), then something ‘bad’ happens.”
3. Change that we, personally, didn’t initiate can also be associated with not being in control. To the extent that you feel the need to be in control, you will find change frustrating.

Second, set up the proper expectation. You’ve heard the truism, “The only thing constant is change”. Even if change is imperceptible, such as on the subatomic level, it is truly a constant in our lives. By accepting change as a part of life, it allows us to enjoy life to its fullest. In fact, here are two more truisms:
1. What we resist, persists
2. What we accept dissolves and transforms

By resisting change we actually harden it and make it stronger. Have you ever noticed that? Think back to a time when you really resisted change. You can still feel the stress and anxiety of the change can’t you? No matter how much you have tried to move on, the change happened and it still persists. However, if you allow the change to happen and accept it, even now, you’ll notice a release of the stress and anxiety. I wonder if you’ll notice something transforming, maybe into something else, something unexpected and something that was better than what you were resisting.

Last, modern psychology, neuro-science, and ancient religious philosophy all state the following: When a person learns to allow emotions to flow through the body; to accept the positive and release the negative that is when they will find peace, happiness, and satisfaction. They also agree that living in the present also brings about positive states and experiences.

So, I encourage you to learn to accept change with open arms and associate good, powerful experiences when heading into the unknown. Be just like a child on Christmas morning that lives with anticipation of the exciting things yet to come!

Creating life in forward motion,
Dr. Edward Lewellen