by Adrienne Garside
Is 45 too young to be a curmudgeon? I found myself pondering this question as I attempted to navigate a new customer relationship management system recently. Sure, it would make all our work processes more efficient, saving time, money and hassle. But in that moment, it all looked like Greek to me. Learning to do things differently always takes significant time and mental effort. Another question bubbled up from my subconscious mind: “Why can’t things just stay the same?”
We humans tend to resist change, even though it has been described as the only constant in life. This has never been more apparent than right now, when literally every person is dealing with a global pandemic. Of course, the extent of the upheaval is not shared equally. Wealth, age, race, gender, health status and other demographic factors also play a role in determining how easily one weathers life’s unforeseen storms. Though nobody can avoid change altogether, there are some ways to make it less traumatic.
Remember the serenity prayer
Most people who have been through or closely witnessed addiction recovery are familiar with this practical advice: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” Even in the face of unwanted change, you have the power to choose your response. One option is to drive yourself crazy by ruminating endlessly on feelings of helplessness or frustration. Or, you could channel that energy into creating a plan of attack. Focus on the actions you can take rather than the emotions you are feeling. Breaking out of unhelpful thought patterns is a key step in adapting well to change. I’m not suggesting this is easy – ask for help from family, friends, neighbours or professionals if you’re stuck deeply in a rut.
Keep an eye out for the upside
Sometimes our darkest moments yield unexpected benefits that are not immediately obvious. Again, the current health crisis illustrates this perfectly. Here are just a few welcome side-effects caused by the disruption:
- With fewer vehicles on the road, accidents and air pollution have dropped significantly.
- Our federal government made extra income support widely available, helping to avoid the total economic and public health catastrophe now confronting more hard-line nations.
- Many people have enjoyed unexpected respite from the frenetic pace of modern capitalism, some making permanent changes to the way they live, work and parent.
- Innovations like telemedicine that might have taken years to roll out have instead been implemented in weeks.
- Many of those working in the community services sector are more open to trying new, collaborative approaches to the challenges that lie ahead.
The point is that change is rarely all bad. The most difficult shifts we face in life – like fleeing a troubled homeland or dissolving an unhappy marriage – often lead to greater freedom and happiness over the longer term.
Take the opportunity to grow
In the 1970s, an American researcher called Salvatore Maddi discovered one key difference between business managers who coped well with change and those who struggled. He found that successful managers recognise that change is an inevitable part of the human experience and an opportunity to work better. The managers who viewed change as a tragic anomaly, an attack on them from an unjust world, were far less able to thrive.
It’s virtually impossible to deal effectively with change if you are fixated on a rose-coloured vision of ‘the good old days’. Speaking of which, it’s time for this old curmudgeon to go learn about databases. Wish me luck.
Adrienne Garside works for Iris Foundation, a charity that aims to reduce the risk of suicide on the Central Coast. The Foundation achieves this by facilitating and supporting awareness campaigns, programs and partnerships which enhance community connectedness and well-being. For more information, please visit: www.irisfoundation.org.au.