Facing Change

Hear the word “change” and you are likely to break out in a sweat. We like things the way they are. Even if we don’t like the way things are, it’s better than what we don’t know.

change-4-1imepycWhat makes change so awful?  One answer is that we are not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. . No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied.

Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we wake up in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard,  without time to plan, we go back to old emotions, old ways of behavior.

My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.

When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?

The second part of change we hate is the strong belief that everyone’s life should be easy and steady. A change that isn’t pleasant is a threat to security. We are rooted in the belief that life needs to be the same every day. And by “same” I mean sunny, emotionally fun, and upbeat. That’s an unrealistic expectation of any life. A big part of life is making it through rough spots and building up experiences.

Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.

–Quinn McDonald likes change. And that explains a lot.

11 thoughts on “Facing Change

  1. I’m right in the middle of ‘bad’ changes… not one, but a LOT. I cried a river (still do) and try to keep my head high and face all the problems that come with changes… I want to believe lynne and hope to come out stronger but right now it feels like I’m trapped in a maze with no way out…. hope YOU are doing right Quinn… thanks for this post, it gives a little hope.

    • Change can be painful, hard, stress-inducing and agonizing. Not all of it is good. How we react can help us become stronger. Sometimes it helps us learn to let go. Growth itself can be painful, too, but it can also make us stronger, more alive, resilient and grateful. Big changes can bring on a river of tears, but sometimes it’s the way we learn to build a boat.

  2. Change? Oh yes, the only constant. I’m thinking seriously about resigning, but when? There’ll be no retirement for me . . . I can’t imagine anything other than a change of activity and focus . . . and no salary. I’m consulting my crystal ball and looking at all the choices swirling inside and wondering about which one to grab first . . . . they’re all there looking very attractive!

  3. Ok, would you quit channeling my life? ROFL–in the past week we had both: bad change and good change. The good change is that my hairdresser of 20 years is making a professional leap into the more advanced and more expensive salon she needs to go to but that I don’t want to have to drive for an hour to get to, so I get to find a new cutter for hair I rarely look at. The bad change is that poor Gander lost his groomer of 7 years when she died of a sudden illness–he is not sure he likes the new place I took him (a quiet dog is a thoughtful dog) but we’ll see how it works out.
    Grow or die; that’s the usual rule of life–it means things always change, whether we notice or not!

    • grow or die sounds tough, but often grow or wither is the same idea. To enjoy the world, we have to face it head on and that can mean some bumps on the head every now and then. Hugs to you and Gander.

  4. This post really hit home for me. I am far from home taking care of my sister who has cancer. Lots of changes in her life and in mine. I certainly do not feel up for the task and every day brings new challenges. Just trying to breathe and stay calm to support my sister.

  5. Bless you, Quinn! This post couldn’t have been more timely. We have just said farewell to a beloved son and his fiancee who have left to emigrate to Australia after staying with us for several months while they settled affairs here (two other sons will be moving away soon, too). In a few weeks, we are welcoming into our home my strong and independant sister who has been diagnosed with cancer and will need lots of love and support to get through treatments and surgery. This was the year Robin and I had planned to downsize and have, for the first time, a home for just us and at the end of the year, I will take a reduced pension and leave my day job to focus more on painting and my fledgling art business. It’s a year of change, some planned and some not, and emotions are running high. I think I will change my word for the year to a well-known phrase instead: “Keep calm and carry on”, with thanks to you for reminding me how important and soothing the word “calm” is.

  6. I love to shake things up occasionally, try something new, change it up a bit. But that kind of change is a choice and it’s fun. Unexpected traumatic change, not at all fond of that, however I have always learned the most from that kind of change no matter how painful the “loss of normal” may have been. I have to admit I would never trade the lessons I’ve learned through difficult changes and always came out the other side stronger and wiser.

  7. It seems to me the idea that anything is static is just that — an idea. It’s probably rooted in the strange phenomena of human memory and limited perception. Only imaginary things stay the same. Breathing seems like it’s the same every time, but that’s only our idea of breathing. Each breath is different; different air, different sound, different blood in your lungs. Most people have (or believe they have) a “self” that’s stayed relatively constant as far back as they can remember. That’s just an idea too. Remember something “you” did ten years ago, and not one atom in your body when you did it is still there today.

    “Sameness” is just a shadow; it’s where we agree not to notice what’s real and changing.

  8. Bad change usually can’t be helped, not under our control. But, if I am satisfied the way things are, if it’s good enough for me the way it is, why do I need any change, even if it’s good, for the better?

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