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Navigating change: Are you the rock or the feather?

When things change, are you the rock or the feather?

Do you rally against the change, insisting — in your mind, at least — there should be a restoration of the way things were? Are you resolute and steadfast in your beliefs; immovable in your opposition despite other contending ideas?

Or, are you highly flexible and adaptable by nature? Not only capable of changing but willing to alter, to accommodate and thrive in a new set of circumstances?

These are intentional polarisations. We all tend to operate somewhere between the two, varying our reaction on the spectrum of malleability depending on the nature of the change, right?

What if an effective way of navigating any change is to be the rock and the feather?

Our brains quantify, categorise and contrast automatically; it’s our short-cut through the world. We do this daily and subconsciously, it helps us make instinctive decisions and allows us to get things done. We also use these analytical processes consciously, applying them to a myriad of circumstances.

This approach is unquestionably useful, however, it means we’re far more adept thinking in either/or scenarios. Consider:

  • Would you like to eat now or later?
  • Do you want to be a doctor or a writer?
  • Shall we holiday in Edinburgh or Barbados?

It takes a slightly different style of thinking to arrive at:

  • I’m going to eat now and later — I’ll have a small snack, then an entree.
  • I’ll be a writer in the morning and a doctor in the afternoon — Australia’s award-winning author/MD is a perfect example.
  • We’ll house swap in Edinburgh next month and go to Barbados later in the year.

Practising the ‘and’ rather than ‘either/or’ can help you feel more free when your world changes, whether you anticipated it or not. In making you more aware of possibilities, this approach allows you to test your reaction to them. This, in turn, aids self knowledge. And that’s where the rock re-enters.

It’s one thing to know your mind is more open and you can be malleable in the face of change, but such mental freewheeling can feel stressful if you have no anchor point.

The rock represents your self-knowledge. This is your most valuable anchor.

Knowing your values, tendencies, habits and desires gives you the ability to place yourself amid the maelstrom of change and understand how you’re likely to act and why.

This frees you from tying your identity to one relationship, job, house, car, city etc, so when any of these things alter, you’re not completely bereft and wondering who you are. You already know.

It’s worth noting too, positive change you’ve invited into your life can evoke similar stress responses to those experienced when your world is cracking at the seams. In both situations, be gentle with yourself.

(I’m writing this from a half-packed apartment. There are no longer any books on my shelves or pictures on the walls and the only box-free bastion is now the bathroom! I can’t stand mess, so it’s not been an easy fortnight and my dearest have reminded me it’s temporary. I’m also relocating voluntarily for nauseatingly happy-making reasons. Whatever your change, speak nicely to yourself while you’re in the thick of it.)

If you’re scanning for the summary:

  • Escape the default either/or thinking; throw in an ‘and’ then watch life get more interesting.
  • Use this ability to see more possibilities to keep you feather-like in the face of change.
  • Let your self-knowledge (not attachment to any thing/other person/job) be your rock-like anchor point when change comes knocking.
  • Whether you’ve invited the change into your life or not: be gentle with yourself.

So hopefully next time someone tells you “Change brings opportunity,” rather than wanting to punch them in the face for being so trite, you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve.

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[Note: This is the first article in a series on change, next is ‘ ‘; then ‘ ‘]

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