Resilience, rather than resistance, to change leads to a happier, healthier and more interesting life.
The school I’m currently working at recently hosted a workshop on ‘Resilience’ as part of a training day. This particular workshop was run by a lady called Pauline from a company called ‘Sticky Change’.
The idea was to get us thinking about change and how we react to it and deal with it.
Are we excited by change or do we feel threatened by it? Or excited and intimidated by it at the same time?
Change is inevitable and of course can be good for us – ever heard the saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’?
Of course change can have a huge impact on our life and wellbeing no matter what type of change it is. What is important though is to realise that the change itself doesn’t affect us nearly so much as the way we react to it and deal with it.
Pauline got us to think about a scenario in which we approach the coffee machine and two colleagues who are standing by it in deep conversation, go quiet as we approach. What is the story we make up in our head to go with this scenario?
Some people suggested it may have been a private conversation about something too personal to share. They would shrug and carry on and think no more about it.
Others thought the two colleagues must be talking about them and out of these some thought they must obviously be discussing something bad and so they would immediately feel uncomfortable, defensive, concerned and upset.
The remaining few assumed they must be planning something nice like a surprise party and so would feel happy and appreciated.
Our reactions to change are the same. Do we find out about a change, say ‘whatever’ and go with the flow? Or do we immediately assume the worst case scenario, fight against it and let it fill us with negative emotions?
Or then again, do we see it as something we can use our advantage? Something that will have a positive impact on our lives?
Obviously having a positive mindset and looking for the pros rather than the cons is the healthy approach. We will feel happier and more in control and thus our our mental health and overall wellbeing will get a boost rather than a kicking.
Thinking this through, I can see that even if you really don’t like the changes that are happening, there can still be a positive side because you might need that kicking to get out of a rut and go find something better whether that be a new job, a whole new career, returning to study, taking a gap year to travel the world or something else entirely.
Some of the best things I’ve done in life have only happened because something else changed in a way I didn’t like.
When we get anxious about something our bodies experience a chemical reaction that gears us up to fight or flight. Successful and calm people are aware of this happening when they first feel that rush of adrenaline and say ‘Stop!’ Ensuring you’re in control of yourself like this puts you in control of the situation.
If you’re going to run away or pretend it isn’t happening (flight) or get all angry and worked up about it (fight), you probably aren’t going to achieve much and will just set yourself off on a downward spiral.
Staying in control means you can think the situation through and identify which is the most advantageous path for you take.
I wasn’t happy with changes that were made to the part-time job I had when I was a student. I worked out my finances and realised that rather than looking for another job, I could afford to give up work and focus more fully on the final half year of my degree.
It also meant I had to time to do a computer course I’d been wanting to do, but couldn’t because I couldn’t afford the time and it clashed with my working hours anyway. That computer course led to a temporary teaching job at the college a few hours a week. I ended up working again, but a lot less hours and for more money, whilst getting a free qualification and some really good teaching experience.
So that change, which had seemed so bad it had me evaluating everything, was actually a really good thing for me. It kicked me off the path of a dead-end job and onto one that was much more beneficial in many ways. I earned more money, had more time to focus on my degree, gained additional qualifications and got relevant work experience.
During the latter part of the workshop, Pauline referred to Stephen Covey’s book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘. In his book he talks about how the things we can control sit at the centre of a metaphorical circle. This is our circle of control. A ring around the outside of this central circle is our circle of influence and an outer ring is our circle or concern.
Our circle of control contains all the things within our control – we can make decisions about them and act on them.
Our circle of influence contains things we can’t control, but might be able to influence in some way, e.g. by giving an opinion – by engaging in discussion we might influence the person with the control so much that they change to our way of thinking.
Finally, our circle of concern includes all the things we have no control or influence over whatsoever. Like an apple falling from a tree or the sun shining these are things that are going to happen.
Unfortunately, the circle of concern is often where we spend the most time – worrying about things that we have no control over. Staying here wastes our own time and that of others and never gets us anywhere anyway.
If we jump back to the circles of control and influence we can think of solutions that may make the situation in the circle of concern less important or go some way to resolving it. If it is raining, we can’t stop it, but we can take an umbrella or switch activities around so we don’t have to go out in it.
So, my lessons learned from this workshop are:
- Change is going to happen no matter what – what’s important isn’t the change, but how we deal with it.
- Having a positive mindset and looking for the pros rather than the cons will help us deal with change whilst boosting out mental wellbeing.
- Don’t waste time focussing on the things we have no control or influence over – instead look for solutions by focussing on what you can control or influence.
- Building resilience to change by learning how to deal with it positively leads to less wasted time, less stress and a happier, healthier and more interesting life.