Change is hard.
This is a truth I live by professionally, but it is also a reality in my personal life. This week we are moving to a new office, and I must admit that it stresses the heck out of me.
I’ve already been through the crucible of finding the right place. I spent altogether too long shopping for furniture. Getting up new signs was its own ordeal (I paid a deposit and then the person I was working with had to leave town to tend to a sick relative, telling me he had no idea when he’d be back). But now it’s
happening. I had my first few sessions in the new office. And it’s all wrong. There’s a dim spot in the back left of the room. My new chair doesn’t feel quite right. Worst of all, my cup of water now sits on my left side instead of my right. It’s killing me.
I am wise enough to recognize that my anxiety is driven more by the fear of the unknown than the misplaced drink. Few people really love change. Many people avoid it. I am definitely among the crowd that likes things to stay just the way they are. Alas, the world doesn’t really work that way. The only constant, as they say, is change. Granted, in this situation I brought upon myself by switching offices. But let’s face it, most things in life change without any input from us. Exp
enses go up and you need a new job. Your body ages and you can’t do the things you used to do with it. Your kids get older and you can’t interact with them in the same ways. That is what life is like – for everyone. You can’t avoid change.
So how do we deal with change and the attendant anxiety that it brings for many of us?
First, recognize it for what it is. Even if your new job is better than your old one, you are still perfectly likely to feel anxious about it. And you are allowed to feel that way. New experiences can be scary; you don’t know what to expect. And that’s fine. Don’t feel bad if you’re nervous – it doesn’t make you a bad or weird person.
Second, highlight the benefits and mourn the losses. Just because there are often real payoffs to a change you’re making doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks as well. My new office is more elegant, but I have to pay for my own internet now. Benefits and losses. Our job is to focus on the good things and appreciate them, while not minimizing the bad but rather accepting it. Any parent of a teenager will tell you that they miss the time when their kids were cute and little and not mouthing off to them all the time. To pretend that that isn’t a loss is to sweep the pain under the rug, and that rarely is a good long-term approach to challenges.
Third, take stock of where you’ve been. Until now you’ve survived the changes and challenges life has thrown your way; you will probably survive this one too. Change is not catastrophe and anxiety is not lethal, especially if you are proactively addressing it. If you’ve made it this far, draw on your past for a little boost of confidence and keep taking one step at a time.
I’m saying all this as much to myself as to you. I’m no less change-phobic than anyone reading this, and possibly more. Being aware of our weaknesses and being prepared to work on them is a big part of the work. The rest is yet to come.