Our relationship with change has a bearing on wellbeing. It influences how we respond to the world and what we believe about our own place in it.
Sometimes we desire, invite, and welcome it. Other times we wish it would leave us alone. Either way, change is of course one of life’s few guarantees. The only thing we can truly control is how we engage with it.
3 Forms of Change
Embracing Natural Change
We must embrace the changes we know are coming. We might not like it, but these transitions come as time passes. How do we prepare for, manage, and use the by-products of ageing as an opportunity to put our best foot forwards?
Initiating Desired Change
We can initiate changes when it seems necessary or appropriate. Maybe there’s a small voice inside us telling us to start, quit, or alter something in our life. This kind of change won’t happen if we don’t take action ourselves.
Absorbing Unexpected Change
We might absorb change when something we have no control over what happens to us or around us. These are the changes and losses that can feel shocking. We don’t see them coming. They can leave us staring at an uncertain and scary future.
Absorbing change is about softening its impact by rolling with its punch. This helps us regain balance and find a foothold from which to eventually move forwards again.
Releasing The Weight of Collective Loss
It’s worth saying that there is another kind of change that hangs over us all. The collective sense of undefined loss in a world that seems out of control.
Factors like political shifts, global health crises, war, social unrest, economic inequality, and environmental precariousness have a creeping impact. Our collective engagement with the fast moving world influences how much power and responsibility we feel we have as individuals. What is the impact of the weight we are holding? And what might we need to place down or hold in a different way? This is something we might need to notice in ourselves.
The Impact of Change
These sources of change can create a variety of challenges for us as introverts and highly sensitive people. They can throw us off course, drain our energy, and overwhelm our senses. But that’s not the end of the story. There are things we can think about and do to keep moving forwards in a world of inevitable change.
What Do We Do When Change Arrives?
We all have inner scripts guiding our relationship with the presence of change. Maybe we know it’s time for a change right now, or perhaps we’re facing an uncontrollable shift in life. The script might tell us to shrink back or shy away from it. Maybe we’ve learned to pretend it’s not happening or to avoid confronting it.
The voice might prompt us to look for someone else to face things for us. So we seek a saviour or rescuer to keep us safe.
Or the script might trigger an internal message that says, “it doesn’t matter what you do, just do SOMETHING!”
And so as long as we feel busy we feel like we’re coping.
Nurturing a healthy and empowered relationship with change is about recognising our scripts in the face of change. This helps us choose the most useful approach based on the particular situation we face at any given moment.
Obviously, this is a lot easier said than done. Especially after a lifetime hanging out with and reinforcing these stories.
Shifting Our Relationship With Change
Here in The Haven we focus on working WITH rather than against ourselves. And we explore how to gently change the story with rhythm and an intentional, slow, and measured approach to inner-growth. Changing the script is an incremental and iterative journey that can happen both gradually and suddenly.
When we invite a spirit of creative expansion into our relationship with change, life itself changes shape. And our engagement with transitions, shifts, and the natural ebbs and flows from passing time might suddenly look radically different.
From Overthinking to Letting Go
We prioritise slow and iterative action above our desire to find the perfect solution.
From Self-Criticism to Inner-Awareness
We remember that change is an unfolding process. We WILL make mistakes along the way and things won’t go to plan. Awareness of how we feel and respond to these moments is more useful than self-criticism.
From Urgency to Agency
We can move to the beat of our own drum. As introverts and highly sensitive people we often need more time to process information. Much of society is built around urgency and a scarcity mindset. But if we succumb to this we are at real risk of overwhelm and burnout.
From Self-Neglect to Self-Care
During times of great upheaval, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. But if we want to make good decisions and grow an empowered relationship with change, it’s important to nurture our body, mind, and inner spirit.
Creating Possibility From Change
Change around us can create new possibilities within us. When we nurture a healthy relationship with it, change stops being something to fear. It becomes something we recognise as inevitable. So we can integrate it into our lives through our day to day rhythms, habits, and reflective processes.
We might start to ask ourselves, “what does this make possible?”
This is a favourite question to ask across different circumstances. It helps nurture a belief in the possibility FROM the change we wouldn’t choose. And the belief in the possibility FOR change in the undesirable situations we find ourselves.
Believe In The Possibility
Opening a channel for belief in possibility brings our focus to the present moment. It accepts the truth of where we find ourselves right now. It doesn’t consume energy fighting the past or resisting the future. And it helps soften the destructive messaging of the inner-critic. So we don’t build our script on limiting beliefs and dis-empowering excuses, assumptions, and stories.
Our inner-critic might tell us we’re too old, too inexperienced, or simply not good enough to face this. These stories quickly become self-fulfilling prophesies that we reinforce and affirm. And they tell us we are alone in our struggles.
But by shifting our beliefs and telling ourselves a different story about the possibilities, we can make huge changes in small and simple ways.
This is foundational to our journey of becoming who we are forever in the process of becoming. Not to land at some magical destination, but to reflect an adventurous story of gentle expansion from the inside out.
Fear of Change
Wariness is a natural response to change. It helps us figure out the genuine risks we need to watch out for and where to focus our attention and energy. But sometimes this natural wariness – being aware of potentially undesirable implications – can become an inhibiting fear of change altogether.
Whether its the shift we desire for our life, the new season we know is coming, or the situation that hit us like a bolt from the blue – if we avoid it, change can become an ever-looming cloud above our lives. It grows bigger and heavier to the point where we are unable to relate to it in helpful and healthy ways. We become more frustrated at our inability to stop drifting, we begin to resent nature and the passing of time, and we get overwhelmed by the fog of unattended grief.
This is Not The End of The Story
Fear of change is a protective mechanism. Our safety is its core concern. We don’t want to eradicate it, but rather we want to work WITH it in ways that are useful to us and in service of our deeper vision and values. So if we can observe it and listen to how it speaks to us, we can begin to gently improve our relationship with it.
This can happen when we start small.
So How Do We Start Nurturing a More Gentle Relationship With Change?
Reflect, Observe, and Ask Questions
When we practice reflecting on useful open questions, we make space to explore what is truly alive in us. This helps us identify what we want to change. It shows us where we are experiencing resistence and blockages. Questions are one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings.
Jacob Nordby suggests starting with three simple questions:
- What am I feeling right now?
- What do I need right now?
- What would I love?
When we are in the habit of asking ourselves questions we might find a deeper vision for how we want things to be. Maybe this is a big picture of a life that looks radically different from the one we’re living now. Or perhaps it’s a simple vision of the kind of person we want to be as we engage with the every day.
When we have a vision that belongs to us and feels like an expression of who we are, we can use it as a lens through which we view the decisions we make.
There are thousands of ways to approach most situations. But we tend to limit ourselves to a small handful of options. When it comes to nurturing a more expansive and healthy relationship with change, it can serve us well to get creative.
We are quick to resort to default patterns and choices. But what if we spent some time building a bigger selection of approaches we can take? We can imagine alternatives, we can ask others what they’ve done, and we can observe ideas that resonate from things we read, watch, or listen to.
There are no right or wrong answers, there are only options. And the more options we have the more empowered and intentional our choices will become.
Memorial Strongholds and Anchors
We encounter walls everyday in life. We’ve been smashing through them and turning them into memorial strongholds since we were born. We’ve conquered many seemingly impossible and insurmountable obstacles in front of us. And we’ve emerged through the other side to tell the tale.
These strongholds are made from the bricks of all the walls we’ve faced throughout our lives. We can spend time here, reflecting on the tools, memories, and lessons that our experiences have provided. They are living monuments that reveal the strength we might not realise or remember we have.
In the face of a busy, hustle-centric world, there is no gentler rebellion than slowing down. Our relationship with change is informed by our perception of speed. It is the pace of change that creates anxiety and overwhelm. And we feed these feelings when we play by the rules of speed.
Margin allows us to absorb and respond to change on our own terms. We can make space for this by prioritising rhythm over results.
Be Imperfectly Gentle With Yourself
Many of us carry pressure to get things right in our relationship with change. But it’s important to embrace and even enjoy the imperfection that comes from stepping into the next chapter of our story.
We often adopt a demand to be efficient and productive. However, when moving through seasons of change and integrating new ways of being into our lives, there will ALWAYS be waste. It will be messy, there will be dead ends, and it will feel like we’re wasting time as we figure out what we want to pick up and what we need to let go of.
If we could guarantee exactly how the next chapter would pan out, it wouldn’t be a story worth telling. Adventure is about uncertainty, mystery, and unexpected surprises.
The Story Isn’t Over
Whatever has happened in the past, however, things have gone, and whatever you’ve done…the future is yet to be written. We have the opportunity to stop drifting right now. Even the smallest action can begin a process that will start moving us in a more desirable direction.
For many introverts and highly sensitive people, we get pulled off course by the fickle demands and expectations of our busy, hostile, uncaring world. We might have experiences of trying to make positive change happen in our lives but never seem to make it stick for long.
We might not even know what kind of change we want to make because society’s values have drowned out our own. Perhaps we don’t feel supported. Or we assume that people around us want us to stay as we are. So we play it safe and don’t make a fuss. All the while dying a little more inside everyday.
It can feel like there’s no escape from this script. But, it is not the end of the story…
And if you were to believe this, what could happen next in your story?
The Change Quiz
It can be hard to know where to focus your energy and attention when it comes to responding to life’s changes. Maybe you are ready to make something change but you are uncertain and unclear about what to do next. Or you might be going through a moment of undesired change and you are struggling to find your footing.
I have created a quiz to help you make sense of what’s alive in you right now, and to figure out some really simple and gentle steps to take as you move into this season of change.
The purpose of the quiz is to help you identify which aspect of change might currently be having the biggest impact on your life. I hope it will help raise awareness and provide breathing room around anything that is causing you uncertainty and overwhelm right now.