Dealing with change

George Stefanis
George Stefanis
Dealing with change

The phrase "Τα πάντα ρει και ουδέν μένει" is one attributed to Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher. It translates to "everything flows and nothing stays". To me this quote is one of the most profound ones regarding life in general. Things in life change, move and rarely remain the same for too long. The real question is how do we change with them? How do we adapt?

Changes might include, but not limited to, changing jobs, changing cities, countries, friends, partners, houses, family, anything. When those changes happen I can tell you that initially I feel fear. Every time I've changed jobs for example initially I am scared. Will I fit in? Will I be good for the job? Is this the job that I get fired? Similar things happen with other type of changes. Fear is ever present.

In this paper by Thierry Steimer the very first sentence gives us a good description about anxiety.

Anxiety is a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential.

He goes ahead in his paper to describe models that draw a biological connection between fear and anxiety. All and all it's a very academic way to describe that change upend our lives, removes the stable ground under our feet and leaves us worrying about our well being.

A term I've observed, and I think it's apt here, is called catastrophising. It's the "art" of imagining and creating in your head the worst case scenario. "I will leave this job, I'll go to the new one, I won't be good, they will fire me, I won't have income for X months, I won't be able to pay the rent, I will have to stay with friends and family, everyone will judge me, I will be a failure. Therefore I won't change jobs". You can change the word "job" with "partner", "friends", "country" and what you have a perfect case of catastrophising and potential breeding ground for inaction.

So avoid change and problem solved? Unfortunately as Heraclitus told us, this is impossible. Change will find you sooner or later. Creating the necessary habits and mindsets for adopting to change is more important here. One thing I can tell you with certainty is that a support network is the most helpful thing. Having friends and family that you can turn to when needed is invaluable. To achieve that you need to be there for them when you are good and they are not. Be there for their happiness and their bad times. Be a friend, a brother, a sister, a confidant, a partner. That investment alone is the most important investment I have done in my life. The love you give comes back to you fiftyfold.

The way you look the road ahead and where you focus is a second important mindset that it's often ignored. Simon Sinek puts it very nicely in the video below. Specifically he describes how skiers when going down a slope they are not focusing on "not hitting a tree" rather they are focusing on "following the path". How we focus our mind and where is paramount. On changing jobs for example don't focus on "how to not fail". Rather focus on "how to do your best effort every day". Adopting to a more productive mindset will work for your benefit in the background. Obviously the same applies with all other aspects in life.

So what's actionable?

  • Keep a positive outlook. Change is inevitable. Embrace it when it comes
  • Keep working on your support network. Be a good friend, brother, sister, parent, partner. Tap on the network when you need it the most.
  • Focus on the road ahead, not the obstacles. Trying to avoid the obstacles and the pitfalls is a recipe of hitting them, not avoiding them.