Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happiness - Change

Change is probably better associated with angst, fear, sadness and confusion than happiness.  But it is something that happens to all of us, so finding a way to deal with it that maintains happiness is important.  It is particularly important for me at the moment as 2013 has burst onto the scene with a whirlwind of change.  Some is good and exciting, some is bad and sad, some we just don't know yet. 

The first few weeks of the year have seen my circle of family and friends face two marriages ending, two pregnancies announced, a move to a new city, a redundancy, our dance school closing and various plans to open a new one.  For me personally I have landed a new job and have the uncertainty about what is happening with dance, not to mention supporting my friends through their own changes.  I feel that the ground has shifted under my feet so fast that I have no idea what this new landscape is or where I stand in it.  This level of change, actually any change at all, can seem overwhelming and scary.

For a long time in my early 20's I tried to shield myself from change.  I lived life like a calm, still pond - safe, comfortable and predictable.  Of course the reality is that you cannot prevent change it will thrust itself upon you when you least expect it.  And more to the point if you don't change, that calm, still pond will become stagnant, not capable of supporting a healthy life.

Since that time I've experienced many changes in my life.  Good changes, bad changes, surprise changes, planned changes, it has pretty much all happened.  The key I've found to dealing with change in a way that leaves me happy is to do just that - deal with it. And to deal with it I've developed a little process that helps me, I hope it might help you.

Step 1: Understand the change
When a change arrives or is announced you rarely get the whole story in one go.  It can be really easy to have a snap reaction before you even understand what the change is.  So when something arises I try not to have a major reaction till I have the full story - which can be easier said than done.  Sometimes getting the full story can take days or weeks, so you need to start moving on through the steps, but remember till you really understand what this change is and why it is happening, it is hard to respond rationally and logically.

Step 2: Have a moment
I think it is completely unreasonable to expect that you can just accept all change without some kind of emotional reaction.  I'm a pretty emotional person, my first reaction is always going to be emotional and it is ok to have a freak out, or just stand still in shock or cry or jump up and down with joy.  I let myself have that visceral reaction - then I move on.   When I see people who aren't coping with a change it is because they don't move on from that initial emotion.  Don't underestimate how strong it can be.  Grief often accompanies change because change usually means leaving something behind.  The key is to recognise all those emotions are valid and that you will probably still feel them for quite some time but that you need to move on from there.

Step 3: Work out what this means for you
So once you know what has changed and you have had your moment (however long that needs to be), it is time to work out what this means for you.  A time of change is often a great time to reevaluate your goals and it can create opportunities that are larger than just the initial change. 

Step 4: Move forward
When change has happened the path is not always clear.  But no one said you have to move right to the finish line in one go.  In fact no one said you have to get there in a straight line.  The key is that you don't let change become a road block where you are left floundering in emotion.  Moving forward can be as slow as you need it to be - as long as there is movement.

Strange as it may seem, sometimes steps three and four can be reversed.  The change will demand action so you need to start doing things before you have entirely worked out what the end goal is going to be.  This is ok, sometimes it just works like that, it is just important not to skip step 3 and find yourself in a default position which you may not have intended.

Overall the thing I've learned about change is that no matter how huge, terrifying, sad, or annoying it may seem finding happiness on the other side is always possible.


  1. This is such a timely post for me. There are lots of changes happening in my world at the moment, and while I'm not directly affected by them (yet!), they still scare me witless. I struggle with accepting change (like you used to), so I never seem to be in the right frame of mind to cope with it adequately. I like your four-step process - it's a really calming philosophy in tumultuous times.

    1. Z I know what you mean about change being scary - it is! I hope my process can help you, I find there is something comfortable in having a structure. Knowing that I will get through the scariness is a great strength for me.

  2. Brilliantly put Lisa! I have declared 2013 "The Year of Change" and hope that I will be able to face it all, good and bad, with the levelheadedness you appear to have (self-guided change that is, although I'm sure there will be many other changes along the way as well).

    1. Exciting! I think 2013 is going to be a year of change for me too, if somewhat less planned than yours. If nothing else it makes for an exciting ride.

  3. What a lovely post (and quite well timed in my anxious moments this week!) - and it sounds like you are adjusting really well to the eventfulness of 2013 so far. Congratulations on the new job too, that is exciting!

    1. Thank you Kari, it is exciting, I'm really looking forward to the new challenge.

  4. Well put.

    Trying to shield yourself from change is like trying to avoid oxygen.

  5. Wise words, lady. Good advice for many who struggle to adapt and roll with changes. All the best with the new job!
    Heidi xo