How To Make Powerful Choices When You’re Navigating Change
We just moved a couple weeks ago. We’re in this new, great place. We’re closer to family and friends. Everything is substantially better in every measurable way!
And yet, transition is tiresome.
Moving is always more difficult than you want it to be. You imagine that you hardly have any stuff, and you’ll be able to rid yourself of junk so quickly, and the whole process will barely register with your mood or your emotions.
And then you find out that, like all transitions, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
I like to tell myself, “what could be so hard about change?” And I like to pretend as though change does not affect me. But to pretend like change does not affect me is to pretend the change isn’t happening at all. Change is supposed to affect me–this is what change is! “Normal” cannot continue when “normal” has been altered. A new normal must take it's place. (Like the highlander, there can only be one.)
The biggest struggle, in the midst of change, is making decisions. You might be making the change, or the change might be forced upon you–but either way, it’s disruptive. It’s easy to feel helpless and powerless without even noticing, because you’re used to a routine.
And a routine, by definition, is a pattern where you don’t have to make decisions. When change happens, we’re forced to confront these assumptions and lifestyle patterns and renegotiate everything. Have you ever started eating healthy and suddenly felt tempted by every carb in your pantry? You didn’t give those macaronis one thought just a day ago! Now you’re fantasizing about lavishing them with butter and snarfing them down in your closet. It was just a simple change–what happened to you?!
Transition is the storm created after a change has been made, and all the previous ways of doing things have to be reconsidered. Here are some ways to master the art of these transitions!
1. Acknowledge it’s difficult–and give yourself grace.
Everyone wants to be a lot more stoic than we actually are. We feel embarrassed when we’re thrown off by little changes and then we lie to ourselves about their effect on us.
Don’t add shame into the equation. Admit how the change has affected you, and cut yourself some slack. You’re not going to handle this perfectly–at least not right away. But you’re going to grow into it.
2. Choose to be powerful.
Some people acknowledge their pain and discomfort, but then they choose to stay there. Eventually they believe the whole world must accommodate them, and they become perpetual victims. These are the kinds of people who repel empathy. People are fighting their own battles: nobody wants to join you in your powerlessness.
Instead, after you’ve admitted the effect change is having on you, use the opportunity as leverage to mature.
“I’m not enjoying packing!” becomes “I get this chance to reflect on the things I possess.” And “they don’t serve my favourite scone at my coffee shop anymore!” becomes “I probably didn’t need the extra calories anyway.”
This is more than just positive thinking. It’s regaining your own sense of agency when the voice of change keeps reminding you how you didn’t get to choose.
3. Buckle in.
As the prophet Jimmy the World Eater once said,
Transition always takes longer than we want it to. Once we’ve acknowledged the change, and once we know how we’d like to respond to it, we’d like to click our heels and wind up at our destination. Unfortunately we have to walk the length of the yellow brick road, and through one or two boring musical numbers first.
Nothing feels as inconsequential as patience does. But nothing returns your dignity quite like it. Be the one who is willing to wait, and over the duration of your patience you’ll find that thinking powerful thoughts comes much more easily.
4. Address one thing at a time.
Finally, here’s one pitfall to avoid: don’t add any changes to the mix until you’ve settled into this one. When you’re going through hell, don’t stop to throw a barbecue!
The temptation is to think, “well, I’m already in the middle of a mess. Might as well change something else now too!” How many kitchen renovations have started as simple fixes? How many times have I tried to fix all my bad habits at once?
If you’re already in the midst of one change, resist the urge to create new ones. You can’t download skills and behaviours like Keanu Reaves did in “the Matrix”. Those Spanish learning CDs can wait. If you start tackling your transitions one at a time, you’ll discover your capacity for change.
Change is a natural law of the universe. When we measure it by particles alone, we call it “entropy”. But unlike the particles themselves, our lives don’t have to move in the direction of increasing disorder. Make peace with the change you’re experiencing, and refuse to be a victim.