‘It seldom happens that a man changes his life through his habitual reasoning. No matter how fully he may sense the new plans and aims revealed to him by reason, he continues to plod along in old paths until his life becomes frustrating and unbearable – he finally makes the change only when his usual life can no longer be tolerated.’

Leo Tolstoy


Embracing change with an open and positive mind is essential if you want to be able to cope better with the demands and challenges of everyday living. You can be absolutely certain that there will be some degree of change in your life at some point. It is inevitable. You can’t stop it! You can’t even slow it down or delay it. What you can do, however, with a little knowledge, skill and effort, is learn how to deal with it. Learning how to consciously direct the changes in your life towards something more positive is most definitely a very important life skill.

It is now quite common for people to change jobs several times. There are those who think nothing of relocating, not only within their own country but also internationally, taking their entire families along with them. It is also now quite common for people to be married more than once and have more than one family.

Never before have so many people needed to deal with so many life changing decisions, in so many different areas of their lives, on such a consistent and accelerating basis. Indeed, one of the great challenges of our time is the ability to cope with change. As Charles Darwin observed, the ability to be adaptable is indeed the key to survival!

At times, life changes may be only minor. However on some occasions, they could have a major impact on your life. A huge amount of upheaval may well cause anxiety, especially if you don’t fully understand why the change is happening.

You will feel much better about the changes that you know or believe are going to make you better off in some way. It is the changes that you are uncertain of, or believe may be detrimental that you will get most anxious about. It is important to remember that even in the most adverse situations, there will always be some kind of positive outcome; you may just need to dig deep to find out what it is!

People across the ages have learnt how to benefit from the winds of change. Among them are great leaders, inventors, pioneers, innovators and builders. In fact every great success in any area of life will have been achieved to some extent through learning to adapt successfully to change and embracing the potential it can bring.

The paradox, however, is that sometimes you may want something to improve, but are perhaps not prepared to step out of your comfort zone to make the necessary changes to make life better. Sometimes you just need to grasp the nettle and go for it. There is a great quote by Henry Ford that reads ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. Let’s face it, if life always stayed the same and nothing ever changed, it would get a little boring wouldn’t it?

There are so many benefits to change and it is important to focus on these when things feel a bit daunting:

  • Change can help you to be more versatile and learn to go with the flow: This can have very positive effects in all areas of life.
  • Change can help you to learn to be more flexible:Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape!
  • Change can make you a lot smarter: If things never changed, you would never learn anything new. And every time you learn a new skill, even if it is just how to be better at adapting, you are that much smarter than you were before.
  • Change reminds you that anything is possible: It is so easy to get stuck at times, perhaps in a job you don’t like, a home you feel uncomfortable in or a relationship you are not happy with. When you see things change, whether in your own life or someone else’s, it is encouraging to know that nothing stays the same forever.
  • Change brings about growth and the opportunity to create new approaches to problem solving and solution finding: This is a very useful skill considering some of the challenges you will face in modern life.
  • Change challenges and reduces your mental status quo: This can facilitate growth in a positive way.
  • Change can also promote flexibility and can help you to respond better to negative internal and external driving forces.

Above all, change will provide you with new opportunities and will pave the way for greater things to come. The more open minded you are, the more you will embrace change and be rewarded with the benefits it brings.

The change process can sometimes be a struggle, although your ability to be strong and manage change positively and confidently is essential to successful living.
Change can bring about all sorts of reactions in people. Some positively embrace change and view it as exciting and something that will open new doors and present new opportunities.

Others, however, may well be far more resistant and fearful if they have previously encountered negative outcomes of change.

When dealing with change it is crucial not to allow negative baggage from the past to cloud your perspective. Acknowledging what you may have to let go of is important, although focusing on all the things you will gain is by far the best approach. Accepting too that you will experience a range of emotions through the process is sensible. One inevitability in life is that things do change, so learning to go with the flow and riding the crest of the wave will make the journey far more enjoyable, interesting and positive.

It is also realistic to accept that sometimes change may be a painful process. However as the saying goes, no pain no gain!

A Story About Change

One day a man called Nicholas found a small butterfly cocoon. He decided to keep it so that he could watch the metamorphosis of the butterfly as he had never seen this before.

Nicholas put the cocoon carefully on his desk and the next day a small opening appeared. For several hours, he sat and watched the butterfly as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared to be stuck.

Nicholas decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly easily emerged. But something was not quite right. He looked closer and noticed that the butterfly had a swollen body and shrivelled wings. Nicholas watched the butterfly intently, expecting it to take on its correct proportions.

Nothing happened and the butterfly stayed the same. Sadly it was never able to fly.

In his kindness and haste, Nicholas did not realise that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.

Like the sapling, which grows strong from being buffeted by the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes to make us stronger.

It is important to understand the relationship between change and grief. No matter how positive the experience and outcome of change may be, that change still means loss. When something changes, you lose your old way of being or your old set of circumstances. A certain amount of grief will, therefore, be inevitable.

Many years ago, people with terminal illnesses were an embarrassment for doctors. Someone who could not be cured was considered evidence of a doctor’s fallibility, and as a result, they regularly shunned the dying, using the excuse that nothing more could be done.

Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross challenged this unkindness and spent a lot of time both comforting and studying the terminally ill. She wrote On Death and Dying, which describes a process of emotional states that is now often referred to as the ‘grief cycle’. She observed that this emotional cycle is not exclusive to the dying, but is also experienced by others who are affected by any kind of change that they perceive negatively.

The Grief Cycle Model

A basic ‘grief cycle model’ has been developed by many organisations to illustrate the emotional rollercoaster that people experience when undergoing change. The key stages include:

  • Shock – the initial paralysis at hearing the bad news
  • Denial – avoiding the inevitable event
  • Anger – caused by frustration and an outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • Bargaining – looking for an alternative or a way out
  • Depression – when the reality is perceived as negative
  • Acceptance – readiness to move forward.

A common problem with this cycle is that people get stuck in one phase. They could become resolute in their denial, never moving on to accept the inevitable future event. When that inevitable event happens, they still continue to deny its existence. One example would be when a person who has lost their job continues to go to the city dressed for the office only to sit on a park bench all day.

Getting stuck in denial is common in ‘cool’ cultures where expressing anger is not acceptable. A person may feel that anger, but they repress and bottle it up, which is not healthy.

Understanding the grief cycle will help you to map out where you are when you experience change and why you are feeling certain emotions. It can also help you to be more empathetic with others when they react to change in a particular way. The key is to be aware of the grief cycle and mindful of the fact that like any negative or emotionally damaging situation, you need to move through it as positively and quickly as you can. You cannot change anything until you accept it.

Managing personal change starts with a clear understanding of what your unconscious or ‘hidden’ commitments and values really are. This will be the biggest stumbling block to being open and receptive to change. From early childhood onwards, you develop your own inner map of reality and you understand, interpret and relate to the world ‘out there’ via this inner map.

Your capacity to be conscious or aware of your own inner map and how you create your experience of life through it is determined by your level of self-awareness.

Your inner hidden commitments have a high priority and will override any counter intentions that conflict with them. You (usually unknowingly) assign these a high priority because hidden commitments are inextricably linked to a hidden inner perception of your physical, psychological, social and emotional requirements and safety.

These hidden commitments are nearly always outside your conscious awareness, have a high priority and will override any counter intentions that conflict with them.

The quickest and easiest way to identify your inner resistance is to observe your reactions and behaviour in your attempts to change. Taking note of how you react in certain situations will help you to process the information in order to understand yourself better. Every change, big or small, has some impact and sometimes the issue with change is that it has a cluster effect. One change often seems to be followed by several more, and it can feel as though your whole world is changing. Learning how to manage change more effectively will help you to feel more in control.

‘Be the change you want the world to be.
Mahatma Ghandi

Steps to success

  • Understand why the change is happening
  • Actively seek out the opportunities that arise from change
  • Be positive and open minded
  • Understand your emotions surrounding change
  • Take responsibility for your reactions
  • Keep calm and carry on

Change: Ten Tips

1. Embrace change

In avoiding change, you are wasting precious time being unhappy when you could turn your life around simply by embracing that change instead.

2. Be open-minded

Your mind is like a parachute – it works best when it is open! Sometimes you may find yourself dragging the baggage of the past into your present, and superimposing it on to situations without being open-minded and taking a fresh perspective. People who resist change often say ‘Well I tried that before and it didn’t work’. Every situation is different and just because something didn’t work last time it doesn’t mean it won’t work this time.

3. Prepare your emotions

Accept the fact that you may be emotional during the change process. In the face of change you may feel unhappy, fearful, insecure, unsettled, frustrated. On the flip side, however, you may feel enthusiastic, elated, delighted and excited. Any of those emotions will have an impact on your energy levels, so it is really important to prepare yourself for this.

4. Relax & go with the flow

Sometimes change occurs and you have absolutely no control over it. When this happens you have to choose how you are going to respond. If you resist change and remain rigid and inflexible it will be a lot more difficult and possibly even painful. So going with the flow is sometimes the best approach.

5. Be Positive

Cultivate a positive attitude and mindset towards change. If you face a change situation believing that it is negative, you are more likely to experience negative outcomes. Whilst it is important to understand some of the risks and pitfalls involved, it is also important to focus on positive outcomes.

6. Keep calm & carry on

This Second World War platitude is very apt. Some people panic when a change occurs because it totally destabilises their world.
If change is happening to you and it’s quite big, keep up as many familiar activities as you can as a reminder of how much there is in your life that isn’t changing. Stick to your usual routines, see people you normally see, and reassure yourself that not everything has to change just because some things have.

7. Get support

You don’t need to try to cope alone or keep your feelings to yourself. This can actually be very unhelpful – repressing emotion can cause stress. Being brave doesn’t really win you any awards these days and will always result in you managing your issues alone. Although seeking support may mean finding the courage to ask for help, a supportive friend can be the very best tonic and will probably also help you find another perspective.

8. Challenge perspective

Sometimes the way you view a situation can be very narrow because you perceive it through your own filter and benchmark it against your previous experiences. It is important to carefully examine the situation from all angles. Be careful not to get yourself stuck in a one-way street with your thinking. There are always alternative approaches and perspectives.

9. Chunk up change

If you are dealing with a big change, try to divide this into smaller steps where possible. For instance, a house move, a wedding or a divorce will involve several stages. When you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the change, concentrate on the step you’ve reached and what you’ve already achieved, rather than trying to take in the bigger picture all at once.

10. Make a plan

Change can overwhelm you, especially when your mind races and you start to imagine all sorts of things that could happen. You may begin to catastrophise and before you know it, you will feel completely out of control. A good way to gain control and settle your mind is to make a plan of what you are going to do.