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Accepting change: thriving & growing

accepting change, thriving and growing in the face of change, how to overcome resistance to change, types of resistance to change, psychology of change resistance, how not to resist change, sources of resistance to change, techniques for reducing resistance to change, fear of change, individual resistance to change, what happens when we fail to change and grow, what is attachment, how attachment holds us back, learning to accept change, steps to lean into change

While change may be constant in life – something “out there” – accepting change, when it impacts you personally, is a challenge. Ideally, of course, we want to not only accept it, but continue thriving and growing through it, because of it, and with it!

But thriving and growing in the face of change is not easy – especially as we grow older. We typically reach a moment where life has plateaued, we have become accustomed to “how things are”. We seek the comfort of the known. Inertia builds up, with a tendency to do nothing.

And then change comes along as a disruptive force.

psychology of change resistance, how not to resist change, change is constant and inevitable

“From a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body {are} constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”
(Evan Thompson, University of British Columbia)

While we may delude ourselves into thinking we can hold onto what is, accepting change is the key to thriving!

What’s at the root of our fear:

Sources of resistance to change

techniques for reducing resistance to growthThere are many reasons we fear and resist change:

  • sensing a loss of control;
  • fearing we lose our self-determination, autonomy, and ability to choose. Is the change choosing for me or do I still have a say in my life?
  • feeling that there is simply too much uncertainty and risk – so we prefer to be “mired in misery”, rather than venture into the unknown. In fact, we would choose safety and security, even if it is miserable;
  • “I don’t know where to start” – and since there is no guarantee of success, rather than trying and risking failure, it’s more comfortable to stay in a place of certain – but slow – death.

When we are realistic, we easily see the effects of failure to change and grow.

Sometimes, we just get stuck in a rut, a place run by habits and mindless behaviour. Unfortunately, the numbness you feel escalates over time to sadness, helplessness or irritability.

As your self-esteem drops, you begin to feel dejected, and then lose your motivation, focus and productivity.

Being on auto-pilot when things are staying the same is safe. But when the circumstances change and call for correction, for changing your course, staying on auto-pilot could be what kills you!

Relationships, economies & markets change – are you adapting?

Our individual resistance to change can cause anxiety – even physical ailments. This is especially true in relationships. Are your relationships changing and growing with you? Or do you feel the need to stay “as you are” in order to not upset any delicate balance that you have in a relationship?  What is this doing to your health and well-being?

How much is holding onto how things were costing you?

When we take a closer look at what happens when we fail to change and grow, we might notice that not only are we failing to make more money, but we are actually losing money. If the economy or markets have changed, and we failed to keep up, we find ourselves falling behind. Reacting, rather than responding. Being disrupted, rather than being the disruptor.

What happens if you fail to grow financially from now on? How comfortable will you be in five years time – or twenty years from now?

Perhaps, because the obstacles appear to be mounting – cynicism has already set in. When this happens, you start to think “it can’t be done”, I can’t change and adapt enough. At this stage, you might even turn to food, sleep, games, or mindless activities for comfort.

thriving and growing, how to overcome resistance to growth, types of resistance, attachment to outcomes, relationships, beliefs, people or things

Attachment – what is attachment and how does it hold us back?

When you get attached to a static definition of “this is who I am” or “this is how things are/ should be”, you create pain and suffering for yourself. Your expectations will never be met! And when your expectations are not met, you will feel let down, abandoned or betrayed. Either by yourself or by others.

Of course, we can be attached to more than just people and relationships. You might find yourself attached to

  • beliefs
  • ideas
  • memories
  • fears
  • places
  • things

As with anything, after you have been carrying it around with you for a while – no matter how light the load – it begins to weigh on you.  And that is the weight of the “shoulds, coulds, woulds, and might have beens”. Rather than accepting change, we begin to resist.

It’s not supposed to happen this way.

Once we become bound and caught up with a specific outcome, it is so hard to simply accept what is.

Once we become bound and caught up with a specific outcome, it is so hard to simply accept what is.

Accepting change or getting held back:

Failing to accept what already is sets up for resistance, judgment, suffering and assumptions. When we are judgemental, constantly making assumptions, we inhibit our ability to adapt and grow. We reject and resist reality, responding instead according to our perceptions and the lens through which we are looking at life.

If you are looking merely at your perception of the person or situation, rather than how things truly are – what possibility do you have of responding appropriately?

Of course, we refuse to let go and move on because we have so much invested – vested interests in “how this should be”.

How invested are you?

For example, in my life, I recently gave away about 300 textbooks from my days of law school and two Master’s Degrees. It was so hard to let those books go – because of all the time, money and effort that went into getting two law degrees (in English – Common Law, then in Spanish – Napoleonic Code), followed by postgraduate studies.

The reality, when I finally got clear, was that those books were 20+ years old.

They were no longer up to date!

More importantly, I was not using them in my work and they were simply sitting on shelves collecting dust. The only time I took them off the shelf was for dusting them!

Nonetheless, it felt like I was divesting myself of an investment!

But today, I want you to consider which areas of your life might be like a pond, where the water is no longer flowing in – or out. Once the water becomes stagnant, you get an overgrowth of algae. With time, the water is poisoned and begins to stink. At that stage, it gets abandoned.

Where are you in the stagnation process? Are you prepared to do what it takes to change and grow, rather than to stagnate?

Are you ready to start happening again to life, rather than life happening to you? 

learning to accept change, steps to lean into change

Steps to accepting change:

Once you are willing to change and grow, you may want to consider the aspects of neuroplasticity that play a part in changing habits.

Start by thinking about your behaviour & patterns, becoming mindful and aware of what you do.

Question your motives and responses.

And remember that behaviour is simply what you do, not who you are!

What do you know?

Consider what do you need to learn or explore for change to happen in your life? Where could you find the resources, information and skills for this change? Who might you ask for mentoring or support?

One of our biggest challenges with any change is that we feel that we don’t know enough. But, in this day and age, that’s no excuse. There are resources available online and in so many places, that we can learn the information we need, find the people and resources that can make it happen.

Take a course.


And then decide to make it happen.

What do you feel?

Acknowledge your feelings and emotions, not simply your thoughts and motives.

Making fundamental changes requires that we accept what is – and this includes how we feel about the situation, ourselves or others. Start to get honest about the feelings that are surfacing about change and growth. What treasures might you find within those emotions – what power lies buried under your anger? What pain lies buried under your sorrow?

Also, accept any feelings that might arise about feeling pressured or pushed into this change. Perhaps you don’t want this change, and you feel that there are external forces (people or situations) that have your back against the wall. Is that the reason that you are resisting the change? Get honest, at least with yourself, about those feelings. They don’t disappear when you push them down – they simply simmer and fester under the surface.

What physical or material changes need to happen?

Sometimes, the best way to trigger change is to do something drastic in our physical surroundings. This might be – as it was for me – decluttering and giving away books, belongings or clothes.

On the other hand, it might also be introducing something new into your daily routine or environment. That could be as simple as a new app on your phone that sets reminders for you.

But don’t overlook changes in your physical world that can support you on this journey.

take action, practice and implement, learn new skills, foster growth

Finally – take action:

It’s not enough to work through your emotions and thought patterns if you don’t take action. At some stage, you have to stop the intellectual learning and gathering knowledge and information, and put it into practice!

We create muscle memory by repeating the same actions over-and-over.

Consider, for example, a karate student doing katas. The purpose of each kata is specific muscle-movements – where these are no longer responses that the student thinks about, but rather automatic movements.

Your growth requires that you build new muscle memories.

If you want to learn to write – you might listen to some instructional videos and read some articles about how to become a good writer.  Nonetheless, at some stage, you have to start writing.

Whatever the change is that you are choosing and learning – you will probably do it badly at first – but do it.  Get the skills and practice, until once again it becomes easy.

Of course, you may try and fail. There are no guarantees of successful change and transformation.

Accept this. It simply is.

But if you stay stagnating, the outcome is most certainly a slow death.

Interested in exploring more about your personal journey to thriving with change?

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“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.” ― Stephen Chbosky
“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” ― Stephen Chbosky

2 thoughts on “Accepting change: thriving & growing

  1. Great article. I’ve always had a very difficult time with change. My anxiety, fear of failure, lack of confidence and over emotional attachments do not sit well with change. This year it’s been something I’ve been working on, managing to adopt a slightly more ‘go with the flow’ attitude is a big achievement for me.

    1. I know for me, change is something that I either jump in with both feet, or I wait until the fire is SO hot, I have no choice but to get out!

      I might need to learn to handle it better.

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