Are You Dealing Well With Change?
Allow me to begin with an old cliché about change. It is the only constant in life. The ups and downs are inherently sewed into our very existence. The love you didn’t see coming, the course you didn’t think you’d fail, the birth of a child or a chronic illness. Despite it being a central part of our lives, many of us still struggle to deal with it well.
At least, how do you know you’re dealing with change well?
Dealing with any new circumstances is a subjective experience. While it cannot be categorized as completely excellent or bad, we can try to deflect more towards the positive. Meaning, we can attempt to deal with change positively which will increase our chances of dealing with it well. This does not mean the element of uncertainty, anxiety or discomfort will be absent, rather there will be the presence of another element alongside them. This will be the defining element that separates dealing with change well and poorly; the ability to view change as a challenge with hope.
However, what prevents us from dealing with change well?
Fear. A common human emotion. Especially:
Fear of failure
Fear of failure is the MVP of fears. It is the feeling of ultimately screwing up something, sometimes even before we begin it. Change is anything that no longer resembles how things used to be, regardless of how minor or major it can be. It can even be a new challenge. When things no longer resemble the circumstance we have gotten used to, we will then have to adapt to the new normal. This is where fear of failure comes in as we fear we will not be able to effectively adapt or even adapt at all to the new normal.
I recently finished my copywriting course at Crunch School. As far as I’ve known, the circumstance I have grown incredibly comfortable with is just being a student cum content writer. Right now, I have decided to wear another hat that requires things from me that are far different from what I have been doing. But even before I began, there is this nagging feeling that I am set to fail, that I am not talented or experienced enough to even land a single client.
It is important to take note that the fear that prevents us from dealing with change well isn’t only limited to fear of failure. The kind of fear can vary depending on the individual. Other reasons for our fear can be fear of embarrassment, fear of uncertainty etc.
So, how can we face our fear(s)?
1. Cultivate a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck who studies human motivation came up with a theory of two mindsets that makes all the differences in the outcomes of many of our life events. They are the growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck explains people with a growth mindset are the ones who truly believe that intelligence can be developed which sparks their desire to continuously learn. Most importantly, people with a growth mindset welcome challenges and persist in the face of failure.
Instead of approaching change with anxiety and ‘all of hell is going to break lose’, welcome it with ‘what can I learn from this’. Cultivating a growth mindset is acknowledging that change comes with a lot to learn. It prioritises the knowledge and experiences over the adversities and discomforts any change could bring. It is also the ability to experience failure while extracting the lessons to keep trying and do better.
Here’s how you cultivate a growth mindset.
2. Focus on what you can control.
Oftentimes, the scariest part of change is losing control. When things are not how they used to be, the loss of control over how things proceed can be frustrating as well as anxiety-inducing. But the major mistake any of us make is attempting to maintain 100% control.
Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of the best-selling book ‘13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do’, shares that mentally strong people don’t focus on things they can’t control. Not only does an attempt to maintain complete control cause anxiety, but it also wastes time and energy.
She recommends the identification of our fears to recognize what is within our locus of control and what isn’t. One of the most common things we can control in any situation is our reaction and behaviour towards the situation. By investing our time and energy in what we can control we can develop a sense of control in a changing environment too while reducing uncertainty.
Coming back to my example of taking up copywriting, the only thing I can control is my effort towards developing my skill and seeking opportunities. I can sit back and lament on whether I am ever fit for copywriting (something I can’t control) or invest my time and energy in my behaviours and actions (something I can control).
While the hows on facing our fears can help in both unavoidable challenges and avoidable challenges (challenges that we willingly pick up), avoidable challenges can benefit from another perspective.
Being brave enough to suck at something new.
The thing about taking up a challenge willingly is that it’s a choice you can either make or not make. But making the said choice can lead to growth in areas that you prefer. For example, growth that aligns with your long-term or short-term goals instead of what life throws at you. It takes guts to put yourself through anxiety-inducing situations to be a better version of yourself. As much as sucking as something new sucks, this perspective made me understand how we have shamed ourselves for it when we should be applauding ourselves. Here’s my reflection on my realization of it.
Change is always difficult. It’s constant. It will keep happening whether you like it or not. It can cause many different forms of fear in us too. However, I think you kind of know by now that there are no shortcuts and that the only way to ensure the changes are bearable is by cultivating a growth mindset and focusing on what you can control. However, there are always other different coping methods than the two above. Regardless, let me dedicate this piece to all of you who have been brave enough to suck at something.
For further reading, check out this article on why developing self-reliance is important in life and how it can help you grow professionally and personally. If you find that you do not deal well with change, read this article to find out if you might be avoidant coping your way through life.