Dealing With Change

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour and Patricia Graham

John: I’m a fixed person. I like what I like when I like it. I get up at 4:59am. I am in my office by 6am. I leave by 6pm. At the gym, by 6:30, vigorous workout pre-planned from the night before. I am home by 7:15, for dinner, watch the Yankees, and then make my lunch for the next day. Saturday is similar to Sunday, with pre-planned routines. Needless to say, I love my rigidity. This goes for the majority of my life. I like new things, but when I am ready for them. My question to my other three friends is, how do you deal with change?

“How do you deal with change?”

Jen: Dealing with change is eventually inevitable – we can either fight or slowly lose, or we can accept it and adjust accordingly. As human beings, we are constantly changing, even the most stubborn of us are doing it at a molecular level. Some changes are optional, such as electing to take a new job. Some are not, like when we are forced out of a job. At the core, resistance to change is rooted in fear. Fear of the known, such as knowing chemo is required to treat a cancer; or fear of the unknown, such as not knowing where you will live after an eviction. These fears precipitate the ultimate sense of a loss of control, which can be the hardest part for many of us to overcome, myself included.  Imagine for a moment a ballerina performing turns- they can be any type of turn, but I like pirouettes and fouettes best, so I think of those. (If you can’t imagine or haven’t seen these, click here to see- starts at 00:40).

This ballerina is in a constant changing motion, but she controls it in one big way (yes, I realize there are dozens of other controls in play, just indulge me for a minute). Notice her eyes are focused on a single place and it’s not until most of her body is already turned that she whips her head around too and refocuses. She repeats this each time because she is trained to find the same constant point each turn. If she were to let her head spin around at the speed of her legs, she would quickly lose balance and fall out of the turn. Having danced as a girl, I recall that missing my focal point for even a single turn could render me unable to find it again, leaving me dizzy and in the floor. This example illustrates how I navigate change, by exerting control over other areas of my life to stay grounded. I remind myself of anything that I can control, even something small, like choosing what I eat. By doing this, I feel less “out-of-control” and manage thru the changes. If I don’t, I eventually fall flat on my face. Of course, I simply jump up and pretend like it was supposed to happen, relocate my focal point and keep on spinning.

“…there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you.”

Molly: I agree that there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you. I like change and I recognize I can easily get frustrated with the status quo when I feel strongly there is an opportunity for improvement. I enjoy solving problems rather than applying temporary fixes and I hate waste (especially my time).

When change is forced upon you, I (like a lot of people) try to understand the rationale behind the change. Unfortunately, not all changes can be understood, such as a natural disaster or a terrifying diagnosis. As an oncology nurse, I have had the privilege of seeing so many wonderful people face the life changing diagnosis of cancer with courage and grace. Courage, grace, and determination come after denial, anger, and questions of why me. Supporting my cancer patients through this process gave me great insight on how I want to face change that is thrust upon me. I let myself experience the emotions as I feel that is a necessary step in determining my path with the change. Then I can decide if I want to fight it, embrace it, or maybe warm up to it.

Trish: Great question, John. This is a very interesting topic. As Jen mentioned, we are constantly changing and the world around us is in constant change. This change occurs with or without our buy-in, and ultimately, it is how we deal with the change that determines whether we are dealing with loss or control.  I like to think of this quote, “Change is a process, not an event.” Somehow, this thought process allows for the element of time. Time to get from Point A to Point B. Some people adjust to change with speed and grace. The speedy graceful people are at Point B smiling and cheering. Other individuals are resistant to change and fight very hard to maintain the current status quo. You can find these individuals still processing the fact that there is a Point B that exists, and heck no, they don’t want to get there at all…let alone get there with speed AND grace! I think I am somewhere in the middle, but more toward the person on the fast road to Point B. Why am I a “somewhat speedy and graceful” change acceptor? I Maybe I don’t like to feel a sense of fear and loss and focusing on the excitement of something new helps me manage the change. The concept of viewing change to be a process and not an event allows individuals time for consideration. This consideration may make a speedy graceful person slow down and discover challenges that need addressing before getting to Point B that they otherwise may have missed. Viewing change to be a process and not an event may allow a resister time to consider opportunities rather than be steadfast in opposition. The next time I am faced with change and feel like I am on the too speedy graceful side of the bell curve or I am too far to the resistant side, I hope to stop, take a breath, recognize that the change is a process and not an event and decide the best way to get from Point A to Point B.

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