“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
THERE’S AN OLD SAYING: “The only constant in life is change.” If that’s true, and I believe it is, you’d think that we’d all be quite comfortable living our lives in the midst of a changing world. Yet, mention the word “change,” and people get worried.
It’s understandable. Change can be scary. And often, it’s outside our control — a result of decisions by people in power, illness, or even the weather. But even when we seek change — in government, law, or our own personal lives — when the change actually occurs, we can have a difficult time adjusting to it.
The secret to understanding how to successfully cope with change is actually quite simple (though not necessarily easy): It’s about transforming our attitude from one of resisting change to embracing it. That’s right — by changing how we feel, we can transform a potentially negative experience to a positive one.
It’s even possible to shift oneself from hating change to anticipating it with pleasure.
Resistance to change is a natural result of fear, and fear is a natural response to something we perceive as threatening or dangerous in some way. Any change, even one we think we want, can have a domino effect, causing unexpected ripples of change in other areas of life, which we perceive as threatening. The key word in the previous sentences is “perceive.” When we begin to think positively about something, we change our perception of it, which changes our feelings about it and, therefore, our attitudes.
Think about this: the physiological symptoms of anxiety (fear) include rapid or irregular heart rate, rapid breathing, feeling lightheaded, and/or sweating. Interestingly, these are the very same symptoms we experience when we are excited about something! Think of the last time you rode a roller coaster. If you feared the ride, you probably had all those symptoms, called it nervousness, and hated the experience. If you didn’t fear the ride, you probably experienced all those symptoms, called it excitement, and had a great time. It’s a matter of viewpoint.
To transform your feelings you have to transform your thoughts — and journaling can help. Following are a few of writing prompts that can help you take control of your thoughts and attitudes.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Shifting your attitude is possible. AND it takes practice. So, when using these journal writing techniques for the first time, start with a small change or minor event that doesn’t carry a lot of emotional charge for you. And pay attention to how shifting your thinking about an upcoming or current change also shifts your feelings about it.
1) Write into the bright side.
List three or more positive outcomes that could result from this change. Be creative. Be farfetched. How could this event or change “backfire” into something great? What doors might close that you would like to close, and what doors might open?
2) Say Yes!
You must want to change your attitude and believe that you can change how you feel. When you feel threatened, however subtly, by an unexpected change, literally stand tall, open your arms wide, and loudly proclaim, “Yes!”
In your journal, complete the following sentence with some aspect of the change at least 5 times (you can include the positive outcomes you listed in #1):
Yes, I welcome this change because …
For example, if the company where you work is being acquired by another company, and you’ve been fearing the changes that could result, you might write something like:
- Yes, I welcome this change because of the new opportunities this company might bring with it.
- Yes, I welcome this change because I’ll have a chance to show my value to the new management.
- Yes, I welcome this change because it might end some of the undesirable practices I’ve seen around the office.
- Yes, I welcome this change because it could bring a fresh approach to my job.
- Yes, I welcome this change because I’ll meet new people.
3) Embrace the new narrative.
Visualize the change coming into your life and, with it, all the positive outcomes you listed in step one and two. Imagine each of these positive events causing other good things to happen. Write a few paragraphs about how these new changes might positively affect other aspects of your life. You could write a “day in the life” story with future positive changes including how excited you are about them.
The idea here is to expand the positive thinking into a positive narrative that you can internalize.
4) Finally, to reinforce the idea that change can be exciting and not just scary, make a small, intentional change every day. Eat blueberries in your cereal instead of sliced bananas. Try a yoga class instead of kickboxing. You’ll begin to see how much fun change can be. And speaking of kickboxing, these prompts are also great for kick-starting your creativity any time you feel stuck.