Before we begin:
This has been something I’ve been working on in the background for sometime. Change is such a big part of all our lives and it’s a process we often underestimate.
I’ve seen lots of work that focuses on why change is necessary, which is something I agree with but none of these seem to focus on what I call ‘the real world experience’ of going through change. Far too many focus on the bare bones of what the experience really feels like. Most opt to write pieces regurgitating the same data anyone can find with a quick Google search, which 90% of the time tells you that change is hard (no shit!).
So, I thought after some pretty hefty recent experience with big changes over the last 18 months that I can lend my voice to this topic. But in my approach, you’ll find a no BS, all emotions laid bare account of what I believe is how the majority of us really feel.
This at times will be raw, comical, emotional and profanity laden but ultimately something I feel we can all connect with.
Enjoy my friends.
Let’s talk about change
When most of us know a change is coming, our natural human reaction can often be visualised as below:
I’m pretty sure no-one ever truly feels overjoyed when change is on the horizon.
General experience has taught me that initial human reactions are to run for the hills or the nearest warm area to hibernate and weather the storm of change aka ignoring the situation.
Now if you’re expecting one of those oh so popular articles telling you the generic message of embrace change and be happy, then you might be in the wrong place. Now this is not an anti-change article by any means, but it might just be the most authentic piece of writing about change you’ve ever read (of course a biased opinion).
I know change, you know change, we all have experienced change. Yet I find we never talk about the full tsunami of emotions that come with it. We point to academic data and countless visualisations to show the emotional cycle of change but we filter it all.
Change can be hard, it can suck, but it can be good too and it is very, very necessary.
Let’s take a ride to examine this often rollercoaster experience, to discover the things that no-one really tells us about change.
The fluffy stuff they tell you
When change is on the cards, you’ll find a host of people ready to share advice, quotes and what they feel are superb pieces of wisdom.
You should take these on-board no doubt but you must apply your own lens to any advice. Most people are well meaning in sharing their experiences, yet so many say the same stuff, for example:
Embrace the emotional experience
You’re going to feel vulnerable and that’s ok
You are not alone
Things will get better
You’ll find out more about yourself
I mean it’s all true and that, but oh so fluffy. Let’s be honest, in the beginning, it never feels like this.
You will feel super vulnerable, alone and question who you are.
But that’s OK.
Let me share some classic examples of this in action with a change of workplace scenario and the effects on your brain during this time:
Someone asks can you click start on this menu and you think “I don’t know, can I?” – random self doubt can flow strong with even the most basic tasks when you’re in the bubble of change.
Or hey, nice to meet you, what’s your name?… oh I’m Ross. But then the anxious mind comes in with “wait are you Ross, what if I’m Chuck, is this a dream, OMG the matrix is real and I’m in it!”
The change crisis of confidence can escalate in random ways.
But it’s all part of the process, so try to flow with it and dip into that fluffy advice when you need those drops of inspiration.
Breaking down the many faces of change
Change can be easy sometimes, but I’ve mostly found it difficult. For me it can be like a death of a relationship you don’t really want to end, but you know it needs to.
It’s the whole thing of why you no love me anymore? With the typical response being “it’s not you, it’s me” but really it is you and I need to get the hell out of here.
Now when you are going through life changing events, many people love to talk about the emotional cycle of change.
And somewhere along the line, the image below might be shared with you.
I mean it looks legit right? Like one of those images you see on a Ted talk or in a psychology book.
But for me it’s way too simplistic and doesn’t really articulate the real world experience many of us have come to know..
I think most of ours kinda look like this.
Let me share an example of my own emotional cycle from a number of life changing situations over my existence.
This was a genuine thought process of mine at the time of an event. Be warned that it is full of what some might consider colourful language!
Maybe you too will find a connection with this chain of thought:
So the change begins and my thoughts are roaming
This is good, I’m excited.
Wtf were you thinking
This feels odd
I can’t wait to move on
I don’t want to leave!! Why am I doing this – this is insane
Staring out into blank space
Fuck………………………… it’s going to be ok……..fuck……………….shit!
We are going to be fine, change is good
I’ve got this, I’m going to kill it!
Fuck, fuck, oh holy fuck, FUCK!!…………………….
I am the lion, I am amazing, I have so many great things going for me, I can do anything……….
2 hours later…run motherfucker, run away from this madness.
Maybe I’ve made a huge mistake
I am the fucking king, bow down to my power.
I’ve got this, we are all one, I love people and we can do this – just breathe
I’m feeling better now.
Shittttt it’s tomorrow.
Fuck it I’m here now, let’s do this thing!
I love life, I can’t believe change is this awesome! Hug me!
We reach our destination
You see, we all experience something more like the above (well at least I hope we do, otherwise maybe I am in the matrix).
But this is totally normal. If change was easy then we’d be embracing it all the time, naturally and unforced. Yet it’s not, it’s hard and our brains mostly don’t want to partake in any of it.
And this brings me nicely onto my next point… that big old operating system in our head that still runs on the same version from 2000 BC.
A case of head games
By far the most powerful operating system we will ever encounter, sits in our heads. It’s mysterious, we don’t know much about it but it loves to mess with us in times of change.
Let’s explore a classic example of the mind not playing nicely when experiencing change.
Me: I’ve got this | My mind: Today’s the day they’ll find out! We know nothing.
The imposter conundrum
What if today’s the day they find out?… find out what?….ya know they find out that I’m not me …Ok…
Some might call this one of the classic feelings in the change cycle.
This is a common feeling and narrative that many of us experience when doing new things, especially in the transition of a new career or perhaps a relationship. Even seasoned pros have their moments of imposter syndrome, where you suddenly feel like the world is going to find out the secret that you don’t know shit. But in reality, you actually do know stuff – funny how the mind works right?
No one is safe from these feelings, not even these folks:
‘The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: “I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.’Tina Fey
‘There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’Sheryl Sandberg
‘I think the most creative people veer between ambition and anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. I definitely can relate to that. We all go through that: “Am I doing the right thing?” “Is this what I’m meant to be doing?”‘Daniel Radcliffe
You’ll find that this experience comes and goes throughout different times in life. It’s unavoidable but also an essential piece of learning for all.
It’s totally normal and in time, if like me, you’ll probably come to find the funny side of it.
The dose of reality
In most cases, with any time of change, you’ll eventually reach a state of calm, maybe even bliss if you’re lucky. The thing is, all the doubt, anxiety, crisis of confidence, the feelings of imposter syndrome – they all end.
You start to settle on the waves, ride out the storm and take control of your environment. You figure things out, get it together and you smack back at life like Thor’s mighty hammer hitting someone’s face.
Change can be scary, it can suck, yet it can be great, but in all cases it’s necessary. Without change there’s no evolution and without evolution, well, life would be pretty boring.
You got this
So saddle up, hold down those sails and let those waves crash on you. But know your going to ride this out.
Just when it all seems like you haven’t got it and the world is crumbling around you. You go all Arya Stark and take out that nasty knight king (who the hell saw that coming!).
Because you know what? We can all do it and all we have to do is embrace the crazy emotional but oh so fulfilling wave of change.
So embrace change, learn some important lessons and know that it might suck for a little bit, but you’ll be better for it.
Before you go… 👋
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