Relaxing with Rob

Working Through Change

March 08, 2020 Rob Sepich Season 1 Episode 38
Relaxing with Rob
Working Through Change
Show Notes Transcript

Since change is the only constant in life, here are some ways to manage it gracefully.

  1. Acknowledge its reality.
  2. Stay present and mindful.
  3. Learn from past changes.
  4. Control your reactions.
  5. Focus on what comes next.
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[ music ] . Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. Is dealing with change difficult for you? Most of us struggle a bit with it, and we'd often rather have things stay the same--even when they're not that great, than risk change--even if things could be better. I think this is because generally, we like what's familiar, because we know the rules on how to play. This seems to apply whether we're talking relationships, or jobs, or where you choose to live. And of course, it feels completely different if the change is initiated by you compared to somebody else. For example, if you break up with a partner, it's a different feeling than when your partner ends the relationship. Today, I'd like to talk about how to work through any of these changes with less anxiety than you might be feeling now. I'll share several ideas that might help. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "every end is a beginning." That comes from a longer sentence of his that goes like this: "Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens." Well to me, his concept is more than reframing. It's recognizing that endings are also beginnings, and that gives us an opportunity to grow. I think that when we dwell on endings, we can get depressed, especially if they haven't even happened yet! And even if we fight these changes, we're going to lose. For instance, "I've mastered this operating system. Why do they want me to update it? I refuse!" Okay, that can work for a while--until your apps no longer work. You know, planned obsolescence is a pretty brilliant business model. But when we focus on the beginnings that come next, we have power. From starting a new chapter in your life , academically, or interpersonally, or geographically. To something as devastating as the loss of a loved one, where you might surprise yourself with resilience you didn't know you had. In each of these situations, placing your attention on what comes next might help. You might remember back in episode 5, "Poets for Mindfulness," I shared Wendell Berry's poem, "The Peace of Wild Things." And we talked about animals who "do not tax their lives with forethought of grief." So can you see how that connects to our topic today about dealing with change, including loss? Grief is hard enough when you're going through it, so why tax your life with its forethought? Of course we lose people we cherish. Maybe it's unfortunately already happened to you. In some situations like slow health declines, we might have the chance to begin the grieving process before death. But if our loved ones are healthy now, why worry about their passing before it happens? I know a lot of people who do. I used to always think about worst case scenarios, trying to prepare myself for everything. It was probably a coping mechanism for uncertainty, but it was not a fun place to hang out, so I changed. But remembering this older pattern of mine helps me empathize with people who are doing the same thing now. Although I think preparation is a good thing, over-preparing is not. If the forecast is for a cloudless sky and your direct observation confirms this, then carrying a bunch of rain gear just in case is overkill. One of my favorite "The Far Side" cartoons that speaks to this inability to trust ourselves and our own perceptions is of three giraffes on top of a hill, scanning for possible predators. And one of them is standing on a small chair adding at most maybe a foot to the vantage point. And one of the giraffes on the ground says something like, "No lions anywhere? Let me have the chair." Can you relate to that? Where things are actually, in Fiona Apple's words, "better than fine" right now, but you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something bad to happen next. It's an exhausting way to live, [psst] and you don't have to. Since change really is the only constant in life, and since fighting it only creates stress, here are some experiments for dealing with it a bit more effectively: First, acknowledge that things change. From the weather, to your classes, to your feelings. Things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But fighting it or acting like the fact things do change is a problem only makes it worse. Second, stay as present and mindful as possible. Instead of pre-suffering about loss that hasn't happened yet, savor your time with the activities you like and the people you love while you can. This will help reduce your regrets later. Third, learn from experience. You know, on how you handled past changes. If you did some things you wish you hadn't, now you know how to be different this time. When we can identify our patterns and own them, we can grow more gracefully than when we ignore them. Fourth, even if you can't control your circumstances, you can control your reactions to them. I know somebody who was a highly productive and dedicated professional, and then her position and those of many others was eliminated. And after working through the shock, she decided to view this as a chance to make some other changes in her life, and she's actually never been happier. And finally, fifth, remember Emerson's words that every end is a beginning, and place your energy into what comes next. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk again soon. [ music ]