That is an incredibly emotional word. I am naturally drawn to this word right now because I have experienced an incredible amount of change in the last couple of months. I wasn’t prepared for the upheaval that comes along with a challenging medical diagnosis or the death of a loved one. The changes in my life were unexpected, turned my life upside down and threw my life off balance. But the way I see it is I have two choices; resist the changes because I feel sorry for myself and I am fearful, or embrace the changes and live out God’s plan. I am choosing to embrace change even though I know it won’t be easy.
Resistance to change is always the biggest obstacle
Whether you plan for it or it is unexpected, change can feel unsettling. Change can stir up cynicism, anxiety, fear, doubt, and uncertainty. When we are forced to experience change we may immediately resist. For example, you may think to yourself, “I like my life just the way it is, I am comfortable, and I am content.” It is natural to want to keep things normal in our lives because it feels safe. Normalcy protects ourselves from facing things that could potentially hurt us. When presented with change our brain naturally takes us to the easiest, fastest, and least-painful option because we prefer to stay in our comfort zone. We tend to focus on what we have to give up instead of what we have to gain. We are creatures of habit so we tend to fall back on our default or automatic behaviors when we experience change. Change can be uncomfortable and stir up feelings of loss. We might feel like we are losing the only thing familiar to us, or our independence, or even relationships. We may fear the extra work that comes along with change. We may resist change because we feel sorry for ourselves and blame our surroundings for our misfortune. We may fear failure. We fear change because we no longer feel in the driver’s seat.
We fear the unknown because we can’t anticipate the outcome, but resisting change won’t turn the outcome in your favor.
Don’t be a Zax
The characters in Dr. Suess’ short story called “The Zax”, are a great example of a natural tendency to resist change. The story is typically used to teach key concepts like stubbornness, conflict resolution, pride, and compromise. However, if you look at it through a new lens you might see Dr. Suess wants to teach us to embrace change.
In the story, there are two stubborn creatures – a North-going Zax and South-going Zax – that run into each other and both refuse to move a single step sideways to allow the other to pass. Each Zax is confident in the path they are going and how they are getting there. They have been traveling the same path for a long time and don’t see any reason to change. The two creatures are stuck and commit to remaining in the very same spot forever. They think the world would stand still around them. But of course, the world did not stand still and it grew. A city and highway were built right around the stubborn Zax and they were left there standing in their tracks.
The message, “Don’t’ be a Zax” should encourage us to keep moving because the world will keep going on with or without you. While it may feel comfortable to stand in your safe zone, Dr. Suess warns us that if you stand still for too long, you’re likely to stay still. Whatever is going on in your mind and your heart that is keeping you in your “spot” does not matter to the world around you because it will still go on. So you might as well embrace change and choose to move off course. It doesn’t matter if you go north, south, east or west or any of the directions in between, just don’t stand still or you may miss out on something fantastic.
The hardest time to embrace change and not be a “Zax” is when change is unexpected. Like the quote earlier said, “we fear the unknown because we can’t anticipate the outcome, but resisting change won’t turn the outcome in your favor.” We have to change the thoughts we attach to change in order to embrace it.
More often than not, once we adjust our mindset to accept the new change, we wonder why it took so long to get there in the first place.
Stop resisting: 10 ways to embrace change
1. It is natural to feel sad, angry, anxious, disappointed, or fearful of change. Give yourself permission to feel that for a bit. Release your feelings and quickly move on.
2. Acknowledge that things won’t always be easy, but hard work is rewarding. Change might take a lot of mental work, but fighting against change takes even more.
3. Believe you are strong enough and good enough to face the change. If you hesitate you will most likely fail. Take the leap. Trust your gut.
4. Avoid worrying because you cannot control uncertainty. Things may be out of your control, wait for the outcome to unfold.
5. Understand what is going on in your mind. Understand the emotions and fears that get in your way.
6. Pause before you act. Ask yourself if you are you consciously saying no to the change for valid reasons, or are you just running away from the uncertain?
7. Accept being vulnerable.
8. Reframe the change as a learning experience and ask yourself, what’s the life lesson I will get from this?
9. Manage your expectations and don’t anticipate events. You can have reasonable expectations of how you’d like something to turn out, but you can’t expect that result. Reducing or having no expectations can help you accept whatever may come from it.
10. Keep envisioning in your heart and your mind what you DO want and don’t put the focus on what you do NOT want. Stay focused and set your sights high. Strive to achieve greatness.
Happiness is a state of mind not a result of things you own or experiences you have in life. You can choose to enjoy the journey to make things easier.
I believe that embracing change will transform my life in dramatic ways. Through my challenges and unexpected life experiences, I believe I will develop new habits, routines, and relationships. I believe I will reevaluate priorities and revisit my purpose in life. I believe I will grow emotionally, physically and spiritually.