Why We Hate Change and How to Thrive During It

A few years ago, my team went through a reorg that split us into two groups.  One half of the team was spun off to another company, and the other half stayed with me at Intel.  

With the change, all familiarity and certainty were gone.  We were now knee deep in the unknown.

It was a difficult and scary period – change usually is.

It took time, but eventually the change became exciting.  There were new opportunities for the team, career growth, and we were able to enjoy many successes along the way.

With all the change we experience, why is it still so hard to deal with?

“I like progress, but I hate change.”

Jon Bon Jovi

Neuroscience has found that when we encounter change or something new, it activates our prefrontal cortex.  This is an energy-intensive part of the brain.  On the other hand, when we come across something we already know, our basal ganglia is engaged.  This is a part of the brain that uses much less energy.   

A great example of this is when we first learn to drive.  In the beginning, driving is hard, it uses our prefrontal cortex, and takes a lot of focus.  Over time, driving becomes easier, we use our basal ganglia, and we can drive seemingly without thinking.

Another reason change is difficult, is that it’s stressful and can feel threatening.  The threat creates a fight-or-flight response in us.  This is a survival mechanism to help us quickly react to dangerous situations, and it makes us want to avoid change. 

It’s no wonder we hate change!

Fortunately, there are ways for us to manage through this.  Here are five that can have an immediate impact:

1. Accept Change as a Natural Part of Life

Nothing lasts, everything is constantly changing.  It’s a reality we can’t avoid. 

The more we resist change the more unhappy we are.  When we embrace change, we are at peace with it, the pain it causes, and the uncertainty it brings. 

By accepting change, you begin to let go of your resistance to it and open yourself up to the possibilities it brings. 

Change is a constant part of life.

2. Focus on the Opportunity

Change can be difficult, but it also provides new opportunities.  By focusing on the benefits, rather than the challenges, you open your mind up to what is possible. 

This motivates you to make the most of the situation and to take advantage of opportunities that arise. 

When one door closes, another opens.

3. Keep Moving Forward

Don’t waste precious time focusing on the past, you can’t change it.  Focus instead on the future and put your energy into moving forward. 

There will be challenges and setbacks, that’s part of the process.  Embrace them and enjoy the journey. 

Keep moving forward, never back.

4. View Change as Growth

Nietzsche wrote, “Out of life’s school of war – what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” While the saying has become cliche, there’s truth in it.   

Change creates challenge and when we come out on the other side of it, we often find that we have grown stronger as a result.  

Change is growth.

5. Practice Being Uncomfortable

Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.  When you find yourself getting comfortable, push yourself out of it. 

Take the leap.  Switch jobs.  Go for the uncomfortable growth assignment you’re not fully qualified for.  Embrace new experiences. 

Growth happens in times of discomfort.  By consistently pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, change becomes less scary and easier to deal with.

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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