Our world is characterized by rapid change and uncertainty. With new technologies, scientific advances, and rapid access to information, increasing expectations are being placed on us to do more things, faster and better. At times we feel stressed, overwhelmed and struggle with the inevitable fear, anxiety and doubt change brings up. I believe that we all have a choice to consciously embrace change rather than to unconsciously react to it.
Why do we fear change?
We are hard-wired to react to change; to protect ourselves and stay safe. Our primitive brains unconsciously “turn on” when we are in a situation that is different; we prefer sameness. Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning our environment and when it senses a threat, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze. We all have seen friends or colleagues become angry or “edgy” when a change is imposed on them (e.g. new management, downsize, separation or divorce). We’ve also observed others or ourselves going into paralysis, and unable to make a decision. You may find when you are forced into changing something in your life, you typically want to run away from it or “hide your head in the sand”. We all have different ways we react to change.
There is strong evidence to show that we can choose how we respond to change. By consciously changing our beliefs and perceptions we have about change, we can physiologically change the structure of our brain (e.g. create new neural pathways). Dr. Norman Doidge’s amazing work on neuroplasticity described in The Brain that Changes Itself provides strong supportive evidence. Dr. Bruce Lipton in The Biology of Belief, shares powerful scientific evidence to show that all the cells in our body are affected by our thoughts.
How can we reduce our fear of change?
- Understand how and why we respond to change
- Become aware of our beliefs about change
- Try on some new beliefs around change
- Learn a proven model and tools to help us reduce resistance, and embrace and successfully navigate any change
- Commit to integrating new change strategies into our lives.
The more you understand change and the more self aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.
So where can you start?
The 5-step Art of Change Framework I’ve developed based on more than 25 years of living, consulting and coaching on 5 continents, is a practical and accessible process. This framework is a proven model for embracing change whether it involves getting unstuck and moving forward when change is imposed on you, or whether you choose to initiate a change in your beliefs, attitudes and/or behaviors.
The Art of Change Framework is based on the belief that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities. Think of the times in your life when change was thrust upon you; e.g. you were laid off; or when a boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. At that time, you may have felt caught off guard, angry, fearful and uncertain about the future. On reflection, these changes opened you up to a new and better relationship or a position more aligned with your values and passions.
Embracing change enables you to let go of patterns that are no longer serving you and to move forward with confidence, clarity, improved health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace. For examples of this see: http://pamela-thompson.com/let-go-fly-free/.
The Art of Change Framework is a 5-step process for embracing change that uses the metaphor of life as a dance. The steps are:
- Shine the Light – Explore how you respond to change and why
- Choose Your Dance – Identify the transition you want to work on and where you are on your transition journey
- Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps – Commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in
- Practice, Practice, Practice! – Do the work that includes letting go, identifying lessons learned, envisioning the work, relationship or life of your dreams, taking action, and viewing change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities
- Consciously Share Your Dance with the World – Observe the positive changes in yourself, how others respond to you, and the positive impact you have on your family, friends, communities and workplaces.
If you’re interested in “diving deeper” into the Art of Change Framework, I encourage you to join me and a group of like-minded women for a fun and interactive one-day workshop “Embrace the Art of Change: From Fear to Freedom” on April 27th in beautiful Victoria, BC. To learn more and to register:
In a recent post – http://pamela-thompson.com/art-change-framework-part-2/, I shared a three-phase model and process called the Transition Journey, and step two of the Art of Change Framework: Choose Your Dance. In Step Three of the Art of Change Framework: Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps, you commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are currently in.
To recap, there are three phases in a transition journey: They are:
- An Ending
- The Neutral Zone
- A New Beginning.
There are emotions and work associated with each phase. If you don’t do the work, you often keep repeating the same patterns in your life and remain unhappy and unfulfilled in life and in work.
An Ending is the end of a job/ relationship/ career. The main work of this phase is to “let go” of the old job/relationship/career and to celebrate the positive aspects and lessons learned from it.
“Letting go” is easier said than done. Here are some proven strategies for “letting go”.
- Identify and surface the emotions you have around a current or previous transition; for example, anger at a boss, a previous partner, a friend.
- Release those emotions from your body. When you think about a particular emotion notice any tension in your body and where it is located. It is often felt in your gut or your heart. Think of emotions associated with past hurts and transitions as “rocks in a backpack” and visualize and experience releasing them all from that backpack.
- Forgive yourself and others. This is powerful and often keeps us stuck and holds us back from moving forward. A mindfulness tool that facilitates forgiveness (of self and others) is “Forgiveness Meditation”. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbHKCy4f6Dk for a process developed by Jack Kornfield , a psychologist trained in Eastern and Western Psychology.
- Write a letter to your previous boss, partner, friend from a balanced and empathic perspective. There are always two sides to any story. Reflect on the lessons learned from the experience.
- If you still have anger and strong emotions associated with a past relationship, it is therapeutic to write a letter to that person sharing how they wounded you and what the experience was like from your perspective and then to either burn it ceremoniously or tear it up into small pieces and at the same time commit to releasing the negative emotions associated with the relationship.
In Phase 2, the Neutral Zone, you may feel stuck, angry, confused and uncertain of what to do next. This is the phase when we often second guess ourselves and question our actions. We may even return to the old job or relationship. The main work of this phase is “getting clear”. It provides an opportunity to envision the job or relationship of your dreams. Here are several ways to envision the relationship, career, or life of your dreams.
- Go to a quiet place, outside in nature if possible. Write down what you envision in the relationship of your dreams; e.g. someone who makes me laugh, loves being nature, is physically active, is a great communicator, … . It’s helpful to use the stem I see … and let the list flow out of you without overthinking it. Then imagine you have achieved your dream and imagine how you will feel when you have that special relationship and truly feel it in your body. It’s helpful to use the stem I feel … and write down those feelings; e.g. I feel happy, content, loved, valued … .
- Create a vision board from old magazines or digitally, e.g. using pinterest, of that relationship, career, life of your dreams. It is then important to look at your vision board ideally twice a day, in the morning on awakening and in the evening before retiring, and say to yourself I am so happy and grateful that I’m living a life that includes … . While you’re doing this, feel the positive emotions in your body you will experience when you have achieved that dream relationship/career/life.
I can attest to the power of this process as 1.5 years after I left my husband of 24 years I wrote out all of the attributes I wanted in a significant other and in a relationship. Within 5 months of doing this I met my current partner and “soul mate”.
In Phase 3, the New Beginning, you take action on the vision you created during the “Neutral Zone”. This phase can be likened to a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon and can be a time of real transformation (if you’ve taken the time to learn and grow in the “Neutral Zone”). Think about how you felt when you launched your new business, were selected for that dream job, met the man of your dreams. These are the feelings associated with the New Beginning which fill us up and make us feel happy, healthy, confident and fulfilled.
If you don’t take the time to reflect, learn and grown in each phase, you may find that you keep recreating the same patterns in your life. If you want a life of joy, balance and fulfillment, it is helpful to understand the transition journey process and also to do the work to learn and grow in each phase.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share the fourth step in the Art of Change Framework designed to help you embrace change and create the life of your dreams – one of clarity, confidence, health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace.
Are you on a transition journey? Did you glean any new insights from this article? I welcome your questions and comments below. What strategies have you found helpful in embracing change?
 From Mary Morrissey and her Dream Builder Program – https://www.dreambuilderlive.com/