Pre-covid I thought I knew as much as there was to know about change, though I have been accused of not having spontaneity. Never mind! It doesn’t take spontaneity to move from a small town to a big city or from one country to another. It takes nerves and planning, which has been key to my ability to insert change into my life and then manage it, come hell or high water.
And even the changes I did not drive such as a seemingly shift in societal norms the world over or a personal loss, I’ve somehow managed to stay in charge of my experiences to a certain degree, using my resolve, though I have learned along the way that grief doesn’t give a toss about resolve.
Admittedly, getting my head around change has not been easy, but it has been doable, if it meant somehow moving forward.
A former boss of mine used to say, “if you don’t do something to turn your life inside out for growth and development, something will happen to spur you on.” I took her at her word.
But here is the thing about change, it doesn’t always make clear growth opportunities, even when you have spearheaded the change. On the contrary, most times, particularly after a failure it suggests dead end after dead end. Following a loss, which happens without warning, this is often the case, too.
Take Covid for example. For three years now, we have been waiting for this master of disaster to pack up and leave. It hasn’t and who knows if it ever well; it just keeps metamorphosising, throwing more blockades in the way. What now?
Acknowledge it, learn to live with what you cannot change, make the best of it, and change what you can, we are told repeatedly. Though it sounds crass, this way of life has worked for many of us over the years when we face seemingly insurmountable challenges brought about by change through no making of our own.
So why does it feel so much more challenging now? It could be the fast and furious nature of the change on a global, national, local, and personal scale. It is constant and tends to rob us of feelings of certainty which we need on a primal level to feel safe and well. We are living in uncertain times.
“The only thing that is certain is change itself.” says Anj Handa, founder of Inspiring Women Change Makers and guest of UIO’s How to Use Change for Betterment. That’s hard news, even if we have known this on some level all along. But as it is too close for comfort now all the time, thankfully, there are ways to make use of all unwelcome change.
Alongside accepting it as constant, Anj and I talk about the importance of being flexible and considering the ripple effects that offer positives, if you will. For example, though it was shattering to be outside of the US when I lost my father, one thing that the horrible experience gave me was the comfort that far more people attended his service online than would have ever fitted into the small church he loved so much. He was a great man and deserved a great homegoing.
This has been the case for others too, including the growth of online courses to support mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as marriage and other important causes and issues, for example.
Another way to use unwelcome change is to recognise imposter syndrome and send it back wherever it came from. Often after experiencing a challenge at school, in sports, at work, in our personal lives, we doubt our abilities. I see it time after time when a star athlete, for example, has a bad game, and is moved out of prime position. Imposter syndrome creeps in. Only when they look for lessons learned and build upon those and go back to their own head and get the rest of us out of it, do they rise again.
Anj points out that even weighing in on an important conversation can be daunting for many people, especially young people, triggering imposter syndrome. Take advantage of technology and write a blog and if this feels too scary, choose an alias.
In a similar vein, when dealing with a change that causes conflict, use emotional correctness when speaking, whether voice to voice or through your writing. Anj explains that this means taking a viewpoint that doesn’t shame or upset people.
This is not always easy when your viewpoint differs from another, but the point is choosing correct language and delivery can be the difference in getting something achieved rather than being misunderstood. Hang on to who you are, no matter how tempting it is to react.
Finally, no need to go at it alone. When change is overwhelming, find a support network and develop your own coping strategy, a self-care plan if you will. If nothing suits, start your own group like the teenager who started Teen Grief Sucks. And if this is not an option, it always feels good to help others—a neighbour, a friend, a stranger. The idea is to keep moving ahead.
While we can’t predict the future, we can accept that unwelcome change, as well as some welcome, is a sure shot. For more information on making use of unwelcome change, check out How to Use Change for Betterment.