Alongside a river, an oak tree and a patch of reeds grew side-by-side. The oak tree was strong and proud; its enormous trunk and branches reaching far above the tops of the slender reeds below.
One day, a great storm came from across the river, and the strong winds blew with all their might. The oak tree, as strong as it was, was toppled over by the winds, but much to the dismay of the oak tree, the reeds were still standing.
The reeds replied calmly, “We were not blown over because we were flexible and moved with the wind. Although you are strong, you fought against the wind and lost.”
Change is inevitable and the more flexible we are to change, the happier we’ll be. Even our bodies have to constantly change. The cells of your skin renew themselves completely every 28 days, and over the course of a year, 98 percent of the atoms in our bodies change completely – even your bones are made from different atoms than a year ago. Want to change between now and the end of the year? Guess what, you already have!
Even our eyes are constantly changing. Corneal epithelial cells are constantly turned over as the outermost cells are shed into the tear film. The entire epithelium is turned over in approximately seven to 10 days. This process is accelerated during wound healing and generally leads to rapid healing for corneal injuries that only involve the epithelial cells.
As you can now begin to see, everything is constantly changing. However, being flexible in the face of change can be very difficult. One of the reasons we aren’t always as flexible as we could be is that we like the plans we’ve already made and don’t want to change them. We get committed to our goals and plans, and can become very focused on them. Sometimes we visualize ourselves realizing those goals, and imagine how satisfying that will be. In many ways, this commitment to goals is beneficial. It helps us stay productive in the midst of distractions. However, when changes occur that hurt our chances of realizing our goals, we get very disappointed.
Change may mean that we’ll have to do more work than what we had planned, get retrained, lose relationships, have to develop new relationships, change jobs, lose status, or get fewer or less attractive rewards. Losing something is a rational reason to dislike change. But, what’s interesting is that we often dislike change even when the reward is greater than the pain.
Have you ever known kids who have to sleep with the lights on in their bedroom at night because they’re afraid of monsters under the bed? There aren’t any monsters in their bedrooms, but with the lights off the kids can’t verify that. They fear the unknown.
Sometimes trying to convince adults that a particular change will benefit them looks a lot like a parent trying to convince a child that there’s no monster under the bed—it can be very difficult to persuade them. Most people are bothered by uncertainty and risk; and uncertainty often accompanies change. Unfortunately, we can’t always know whether a change will result in a gain or loss for us. Yet most of us realize that an unwillingness to be flexible to change to change would be very costly for us in our lives and in our careers. Just like the tree in our story, if we don’t bend with the winds of change, we may get uprooted.
So, what do we do? Well, here are 5 tips to help you remain flexible to change:
Reduce your expectations to fit reality!
When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or DEMAND a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain. Keep your expectations within reality. This doesn’t mean you can’t want or hope for big things, it just means that you remain open and flexible with the outcome of a situation.
Decide what can’t change!
There are some things that should never change – for example, your Core Values, your Message and your Purpose should remain constant. As much as we need change, we also need stability. You can choose to be flexible to change your habits, methods and limited beliefs. However, your visceral values and purpose are the bedrock of who you are; if you change them, you will lose YOU. Unless, changing YOU is what’s needed for survival, some things should never change.
Expect and prepare for resistance!
Change will almost always create a sense of loss, temporary discomfort and the feeling of being out of control. These feelings will invariably lead to resistance. We are creatures of habit and when things change it’s normal to feel threatened. Expect that you will resist and plan for it.
Imagine holding 20 tiny rubber bands between your index finger and your thumb. If you try the raise your thumb by raising your index finger, the resistance of the rubber bands will pull the index finger down because the thumb is stronger. However, when you add your middle finger and your ring finger to the mix, you can leverage the combined strength of the 3 fingers and pull the thumb up. Change is easier with a team!
Learn to live with uncertainty.
That anxious feeling you often get when faced with new & different experiences does not mean that you’re doing something wrong. It means that you’re charting new territory that have been, until now, unknown to you. Try recognizing that “uncertain feeling” as excitement about a new possibility or anticipation of something great on its way. Training your mind to interpret “that feeling” as excitement instead of anxiety will make it easier to live with uncertainty- because now, instead of feeling scared of change, you’ll be excited about it!
Embracing change may not be easy at first, it’s something that, like any new skill, takes practice but reminding ourselves of how moving gracefully through change will strengthen us will motivate us to keep at it.
When we proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, we are filled with more calmness, peace, and happiness.
“It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” ~ Charles Darwin
When life fails to shake you up with its twists and turns, you will realize something amazing. You will realize that change can’t break you. The more you proactively embrace change, the more confident you will become!