As human beings, we don’t look at change and think, “Hmmm I want more of that.”
Given my own relationship to and with change, I challenged myself to figure out why this is true. Why do we avoid change? Why does change create stress, fear and uncertainty? The answer starts with your brain.
My brain right now is singing Foo Fighters, but instead of the great pretender, I’m singing the great predictor. That’s your brain. That’s what your brain does best. It takes in all of the information around you, at any given time, and fills the gaps by predicting what will happen next. Or as Lars Muckli, professor of neuroscience at the Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging, puts it, “Our brains make sense of the world by predicting what we will see and then updating these predictions as the situation demands.”
Even when presented with all kinds of opportunities at hand – both good (promised rewards) AND bad (risky behaviors), people still find themselves wanting more stability rather than opting into new beginnings. And that is because we cannot predict what we haven’t experienced, like those new beginnings, and it’s scary.
Dave Grohl, before he cemented his place in history as the Foo Fighters founder, was playing drums with Kurt Cobain for the legendary band Nirvana. Life dealt a big hand of change with Cobain’s death – change Grohl used to become one of the most well known rockers in grunge history. This is an awesome story of becoming Change Proof, able to use uncertainty as a foundation for growth.
Getting Rid of the Paralyzing What If’s
One thing I hear a lot when I speak as a resilience keynote speaker is that the “what if” part of change is paralyzing. Learning to adapt to change, to stop engaging that fight or flight cortisol reaction in our brains, is how we increase our capacity and potential.
In my new book, Change Proof, I teach readers how to employ a new method for those moments where change feels paralyzing, by Pausing, Asking and then Choosing. This simple change in our approach is how we can learn to adapt to change and then eventually learn to LOVE change and the power it brings. In this way, we get to choose change before it chooses us – a shift that creates clarity around all of the potential that change is harnessing.
Pause. It’s counter-intuitive but you have to pause. You have to know at that moment that the first thing that you do is stop what you’re doing. It’s the hardest thing to do, to take that pause, because the risk is so great. It goes against millions of years of human evolution. Again, it’s that voice in your lizard brain telling you that survival is the only option. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t.
Ask. The next step, The Ask, is where you determine exactly how you live. This is where we frame the meaning of what you’re experiencing. You’re creating a space to ask the questions you need to ask about what happened and what you’re going to do about it.
Choose. Once you’ve stopped struggling against the current, and created space to look at your options, you get to choose how you proceed. Taking back control of your life and the change that is inevitable.
Methods like the one I shared above provide the platform and resilience we are all looking for. By building a foundation to be better predictors (instead of pretenders) we get to live life on our own terms.