Change: The Scary Necessity

By Amanda Tonoli

I just got adjusted to my new job — new office, new people, new microwaves … it’s intense. I’m not someone that usually enjoys the whole process of change. But now that I’m adjusted, I’m going to spend the next five years here, getting used to people and developing an emotional attachment to my rickety desk, right?

Nope. We are moving to a new building. I’ll be going with the same people, but for someone who dislikes change, these two changes so close together really takes a toll on me. I’m exhausted, upset and a little anxious. I should be excited though, right? I’m moving to a newer, more updated building and I’m getting a new desk. So why am I so down about it?

In “Business: Why Change is So Hard, and How to Make it Easier,” published in October 2009 in Psychology Today, Jim Taylor talked about the thing that holds us back when we are about to experience something new: a change.

“As anyone who has ever tried to change knows, it is far from simple or easy. Change can be slow, frustrating and painful; it can also be engrossing and inspiring,” Taylor said. “Change is the most difficult-yet-rewarding-thing you will ever do.”

If it’s so rewarding, why can’t I get a handle on my anxiety about it?

Taylor addressed certain feelings that hold us back from getting into a positive mood about change.

“The most frequent types of baggage include low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure, need for control, anger and need to please,” Taylor said. “This baggage causes you to think, feel and behave based on who you were as a child rather than the very different person you are now as an adult.”

If we are all so worried about this it’s no wonder we can’t adjust better.

“Deeply ingrained habits in the way you think, experience emotions and behave arise out this baggage,” Taylor said. “In other words, you react to the world in a certain way because that’s the way you always have; these habits produce knee-jerk reactions that are no longer healthy or adaptive.”

Not adjusting to change well is more or less a function of the average human being. It’s more of a fear than an old-habits-die-hard type of thing. We are afraid it won’t be what we want it to be, so we would rather stick with the familiar.

This is true when it comes to work places as well. So what’s the solution?

In “Why Change Is So Hard,” published in January by The Huffington Post, Karen Frankola talked about how change can be successful in a business setting.

Frankola told a story about working for a company resisting change and how a big change implemented failed. Frankola said because it wasn’t led correctly, it failed.

“Change doesn’t take hold because of people — strong leadership or executive sponsorship is frequently cited as the most important factor for a successful initiative,” Frankola said. “The truth is most employees don’t readily take on new behaviors without some help.”

Personally, I know I’m kind of gullible, and if people around me are excited for something new, I generally am too. Just like misery loving company, happiness does too.

Frankola continued to say that even in working innovative companies she found resistance unless encouragement by leaders was present. If there was no encouragement, most of the team didn’t have much motivation toward starting or doing something new.

With all of this potentially holding us back — the emotional baggage and maybe not the right kind of encouragement from our higher ups — it is still important to embrace changes.

“In attempting to change, you are swimming against the tide of many years of baggage, habits, emotions and environment,” Taylor said. “But if you can overcome those obstacles and commit yourself to a new direction in your life, amazing things can happen.”

Maybe we really are our own worst enemies, rejecting new opportunities as they come our way out of feelings of distrust or fear for the future. Do we really need constant encouragement to try something? Maybe we should be our own encouragement.

Besides, without ever trying anything new how can we expect to grow up? To grow old like our parents. To succeed. Without change, we would never adapt or be able to survive our ever-changing world.