How To Change When Change Is Hard
Maybe it's the time of year. Or the season. Or maybe we're just constantly navigating difficult changes and it's simply just a constant theme of life.
Regardless of the why, as parents, we're constantly having to navigate change as our children and families grow and change, and as we grow and change as individuals.
And I felt this was an important topic to address for a couple of reasons. First, the more successfully we navigate change when change is hard, the lower stress and anxiety we experience, and the better we can show up as parents.
Second, the better we navigate difficult changes, the better models we are for our kids when they inevitably need to do the same.
But it begs the question...
HOW DO PEOPLE CHANGE WHEN CHANGE IS HARD?
Whether it’s expected or unexpected, desired or not, exciting or scary, change can be difficult, to say the least.
CHANGE IS ALWAYS HARD
Of course, when change is expected, desired, and exciting, we’ve at least got some motivation in our tank to push through the tough parts.
But what about when change is unexpected, unwanted, and scary? Well, that’s a whole different thing…
But either way, change is hard.
In order to change, we have to venture out of our safe, cozy, comfort zone, into the unfamiliar.
Some people cope with change well. Others… not so much.
SOME PEOPLE DO WELL WITH CHANGE, AND OTHERS DON’T
So what’s the difference? Why do some people seem to deal so well with new changes and challenges with ease, while others seem to just crumble at any little shift in their world?
In a word - resilience.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE AND COPING STRATEGIES
It’s not that change isn’t hard for people who handle it well. It’s just that they have incredible perspective and coping strategies to help them through.
And the good news is, these are skills that anyone (yes, even you!) can develop, practice, and improve over time to help you deal with even the most challenging changes in your life.
There are several things you can do to successfully navigate change, especially when it’s hard.
7 STEPS TO DEAL WITH CHANGE WHEN CHANGE IS HARD
STEP 1: DROP IT, OWN IT, OR ACCEPT IT
The first thing you need to do is determine whether the thing that’s changing is within your control. And if it is, decide whether you want to change it or not.
If It’s In Your Control, And You Don’t Want To Change, Then Don’t
Sometimes we feel pressure to change things because other people want us to, because we feel like we “should”, or because we’re working on goals that maybe are no longer really a priority for us.
In those situations, if you have no good reason to move forward and change things, then don’t. Just drop it, save yourself the hassle, because there’s plenty of things you’ll want or need to change that you can put that mental effort into anyways.
If It’s In Your Control, And It's Your Decision To Change, Then Own It
On the other hand, if you’ve determined that the rewards of changing or the consequences of not changing outweigh staying the same, then own your decision. You don’t have to change. You decided to change.
If It’s Out Of Your Control, Then Accept It
Things change. And sometimes, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. So just accept it.
The Sooner, The Better
Owning or accepting change doesn’t mean change doesn’t hurt, or it isn’t scary, or it’s going to be easy. But the sooner you can accept that things need to change, are changing, or have already changed, the sooner you’ll be able to begin to move forward through the change.
Resisting Change Doesn’t Make It Go Away
The harder you try to fight against change, the more difficult you’re making it on yourself, and everyone else around you.
So the first step to dealing with change when change is hard, is simply to stop denying it, resisting it, or fighting against it, and just be honest with yourself and accept that things are going to change, for better or for worse.
STEP 2: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR SITUATION
Accepting change doesn’t mean embracing a victim mentality. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Don’t Be A Victim
Engaging in a victim mentality and blame aren’t going to get you anywhere helpful. These things serve nothing more than to keep you stuck, miserable, and unable to cope with the changes surrounding you.
So once you own your decision to change or accept that change is outside of your control, the next step is to understand that you’re not a victim, and learn not only to own or accept change, but to embrace it.
Stop Trying To Control Things That Are Out Of Your Control
The problem is, most people want to control things they have no control over, and get stuck there. That’s where the bulk of your stress and chaos comes from.
But there’s a lot more than you realize in any given situation, that you actually have a lot of control over.
Take Control Of The Things That Are In Your Control
Instead of focusing all of your mental effort, thoughts, emotions, and actions on things you have no control over anyways, figure out what you do have control over.
Instead, identify the things that actually are in your control, take control of those things, and let the rest go.
It Might Not Be Your Fault, But It’s Still Up To You To Deal With It
Because the truth is, it really doesn’t matter who’s (or what’s) at fault. The fact is, you’re in your current situation. And no one’s going to save you, but you.
If you want to move through this - or any change in your life - and come out better on the other side, you’re going to have to take full responsibility for making that happen.
STEP 3: MIND YOUR SELF-TALK
The way you think matters. The way you talk to yourself matters. And the way you talk about yourself, others, and your situation matters.
It’s Not Just Internal
Despite what the masses may say, it’s not just all in your own head or affecting only you. Your thoughts affect your feelings, which affect your actions, which have a profound impact on yourself, others, and your situation.
Notice Your Negative Self-Talk
Learn to pay attention to your negative self-talk. Identify the things you say to yourself about yourself, others, and your situation that aren’t healthy or helpful. And start changing it, today.
Shift To More Helpful Self-Talk
Once you’re able to notice your negative self-talk, evaluate it. How true is it? How likely is it? How helpful is it?
Then find more healthy and helpful self-talk to replace it.
Make sure it’s true, and you believe it. But also make sure it’s focused on possibility, positive outcomes, or what’s in your control. And it will start to shift you out of getting sucked into the downward spiral of doom, into an upward spiral of hope, optimism, and momentum.
Something as simple as “I’ll get through this” or “I can handle this” are good starting points and generally helpful self-talk. But the more you practice, the more you’ll find yourself able to personalize your self-talk for maximum impact.
STEP 4: FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS
When things change, especially when it’s hard, our brains go into fight-or-flight mode.
We’re Primed To Focus On Problems
Your brain’s primary function is to keep you alive. Which means it’s constantly on the lookout for threats.
So as things begin to change, you focus on all the problems that change will create for you, and your ability to survive and thrive. But in the modern world, you’re probably not going to die just because things are changing.
Most of the time, you’re probably making the problems that do exist much bigger in your head than they actually are in real life. And even if you’re not - and your problems really are that big - it’s still not going to do you any good to keep ruminating about them over and over and over again, into a downward spiral of doom.
Identify Problems, But Focus On Solutions - It’s Much More Adaptable
Instead of getting stuck focusing on and ruminating about all of the horrible problems difficult changes create, start focusing on solutions instead. Here’s how:
- Identify the problem: And then move on. Out of your control? Great, then go back to step 2 above and repeat.
- Brainstorm solutions: Ask yourself, “How can I make this change as successful as possible?” or “How can I make the most out of this change?”. Set your timer for 2 minutes. And write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t evaluate, just write. Let your creativity flow.
- Evaluate your options: Decide whether the options you brainstormed above are good, bad, or so-so. What are the short-term consequences for yourself and others? What about the long-term consequences? How likely are they to actually solve your problem?
- Choose the best one: after you evaluate, you probably have one or two clear winners. Don’t spend forever pondering. Just pick one. And take action.
STEP 5: TAKE ACTION
Planning doesn’t change your situation. Action does.
You might know all the right things to do, but if you don’t or can’t bring yourself to actually do them, you’re going to find yourself in exactly the same situation (or worse) in a day, a week, a month, a year, or a decade from now.
Do The Things You Need To Do, So You Can Achieve The Results You Want To Achieve
So don’t just plan out what you could do. Or what would be best. Actually put your plan into action. And do the things you need to do, to get the results you want to get.
STEP 6: PUSH THROUGH THE HARD STUFF
Just like you have to accept that change is an inevitable and difficult part of life, you also have to learn to accept that challenge is an inevitable and difficult part of change.
If Change Is Easy, You’re Probably Doing It Wrong
Change isn’t easy. And if it’s easy, you’re probably not really changing. At least, not in the ways you’re going to look back on and be proud of or grateful for.
Stop trying to cut corners, to find the easy way out, to get the quick fixes, to mold and shape things to fit your comfort zone.
When you do these things, you’re not really changing. What you’re actually doing is avoiding change. And trying to make yourself feel better in the process.
Great Change Is On The Other Side Of Adversity
You won’t find the results you’re looking for by avoiding change, on the other side of the easy path, underneath the quick fix, or within your comfort zone.
You’ll only find great change after you move through adversity. Not over it. Not under it. Not around it. Through it.
You’ll only find great change after you brace yourself for challenge, buckle down, and work harder to get to where you want to be than you’ve worked to get to where you were before you had to change.
STEP 7: BE SELF-AWARE AND SELF-REFLECTIVE
Self-awareness and self-reflection goes a long way in helping you become better at dealing with change when change is hard.
It’s The Only Way to Keep From Repeating Your Mistakes
On the flip-side, lack of self-awareness or refusal to honestly and accurately self-reflect will keep you stuck repeating the same mistakes, over and over and over again, in a negative loop of misery.
So don’t be that person. I mean, at least not if you’re ready to move into a life where you handle change with ease, grace, and continual self-improvement.
How To Build Self-Awareness And Self-Reflection
Self-awareness and self-reflection require intention.
- Pay attention: to yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, and how they contributed to your outcomes.
- Self-evaluate: Set aside time to ask yourself how you handled (or how you’re currently handling) change. Did you handle it great, not so great, terrible? Sum it up in one word. Or on a scale from 1-10. Or however works best for you. But make sure you self-evaluate. It’s not a judgment. It’s an observation. So be honest with yourself. Don’t exaggerate the positives. But don’t minimize them either. Same goes for the negatives. Try to be objective.
- Give yourself feedback: Ask yourself why. Why did you evaluate yourself the way you did? What did you do well? What did you do not so well? What’s one thing you can do different or better next time you’re faced with a difficult change? What did you do well?
- Praise yourself: No matter how terrible you think you handled change when change was hard, it was hard, and you tried. And that’s at least worth praising. Plus, I bet if you really take a close look, you can find at least one or two other things you can praise yourself for. Don’t ignore the small wins. Celebrate them.
HOW TO CHANGE WHEN CHANGE IS HARD - IN A NUTSHELL
First of all, any meaningful change in your life is going to be hard. It takes courage to get out of our comfort zone and do something different. And the bigger the change, the scarier it can be.
But if you have the right perspective and tools, take the right actions, and keep practicing, soon you’ll be able to navigate even the most difficult changes in your life with ease, grace, and success.
And the more you do, the more you’ll begin to look toward change as an opportunity for growth, learning, and new beginnings.