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How Change Impacts the Brain and Holds You Back

Change – that can be a scary word, more so for some people than others. Change means moving away from something we know and moving to something we don’t – and that can create resistance. Some individuals will drag their heels, refusing to the change while others will go with it but are kicking and screaming reluctantly, while others will cruise along to see how things go and either will accept or reject. We get these types of responses whether the change is forced on us or it is for something we want for ourselves.

Why is change so difficult? Why can we just accept and move towards it as opposed to holding back? You know, the more we resist the more upset and frustrated we become. So what happens? How can this be explained?

We actually have to place blame on this brain of ours, especially the reptilian part of the brain, which houses emotions. When we move away from our status quo, and it feels threatening, that limbic system activates which will either lead us to fight or to be anxious. How we respond will be how we’ve coped and adapted over the years to stressful situations.

The way to move through change is to alter the way you see it – not as a threat but as something that will be an improvement which you get to know. Don’t think ahead or predict the outcome (‘It will never work’); plan and write out some solutions for how you will deal with the change, and tell yourself that it will work out. These simple steps help to tame the ‘dinosaur’ and help you to move through any changes that come your way.

How do You React to Unplanned Change?

I was in church this morning, which is merging with another church; today was the first day the two were brought together. I used to attend both at one time but this came as a surprise. However, what should have been a holy experience was interrupted by a woman who sat in front of me, who was obviously very displeased. She kept shaking her head and making some snide comments that were loud enough to be heard.

What should have been an uplifting service was now – not. It made me think of both the how and why one reacts to unplanned change; heck, change in general. If things don’t turn out the way we anticipated, we either accept or not. Both, however, can lead to some anxiety and resistance.

When we anticipate the future, this can lead to worry about what that might look like. The fear center in our brain – the amygdala – activates and releases certain chemicals into our system. How we have responded to scary situations sets how we react when those situations threaten us in some way. Usually, these situational outcomes are created in our mind, although our responses become more automatic, especially if we have the same responses over time. So, the worry can also come out as anger, like the woman in church.

I don’t know if she didn’t like the distance she now has to drive, if she was upset that new members were coming in, or the new practices they implemented; I do know, however, that she was not happy and did not either care or realize that she let it show. Getting in our ‘rightness’ leads to resisting change of any type: our thoughts, our way. The question to ask is: if you would rather be right in your way or to be happier? The thought here is that you win so I lose but, in the grand scheme of things, no one is winning.

You can either wait and see, or go along with, the change or you can resist. You never know if the change may actually be enjoyable but when you think negative, you get negative and are not open. As we can never know an outcome, stop trying to control it. Be open enough to ‘go with the flow’ and wait it out; this will allow you time to make an informed decision for how you want to proceed from then on. Going back to the woman I spoke of earlier, she can either go to another church or she can give it time to see how things go. I prayed that she opens her heart enough to find out.

We all have the ability to assess how we respond to adverse situations and unplanned change; we also have the ability to learn to control how we view those situations and our responses. Go back and think of a time when you had an unplanned event and how you looked at it and how your responded; rate the magnitude of the event (finances, job loss, divorce, etc. all have high magnitudes), and then begin developing solutions to fall back on. Challenge and reframe your thoughts so you feel more in control. I pray that you open your heart enough to find out.

Using Your Voice for Good

I know this will sound ‘cheesy’ but I admit that I watch beauty pageants; in fact, I’ve judged several. I am always amazed at how this industry attracts not just beautiful women but ones who are very smart and accomplished. Last night’s Miss USA Pageant was a bit different in the respect that there was more diversity in contestants, there was a “Number 52” who was voted in by the public, a Ph. D. candidate, and an Army sergeant (who won).

Another change that was very impactful was, first, there were only 5 judges and not 10 like there were in the past; the public as well as the contestants were able to cast votes for the winner; and the biggest impact were the questions for the final five. How awkward that one contestant was asked the question of what can be done about the disparity between the rich and the poor (she bombed this badly), as well as the contestant who was asked if she would vote for either Clinton or Trump – talk about being put on the spot, but she handled it well.

I also like to hear what these women stand for – their passions and hobbies. This last year’s Miss USA, in her farewell speech, talked about her best memories of politicking on Capital Hill for Cancer and Alzheimer’s; she said how using your voice for good can change the world. This really resonated with me as I find this is often hard for some to do, as it means you have to put yourself out there which could open you up for criticism or ridicule.

We, as a society in general, seem to care about what others think of us so we go along with the crowd, like ‘sheeple,’ afraid to think and act as we want. We seem to be afraid of being authentic or showing who we really are; we might judge others, become that mean girl (or boy), or stay hidden in the shadows. The ultimate is a frustrated life. The only way to get ahead is to use your voice for good – write, speak, advocate for yourself and others, don’t accept mediocrity, don’t accept poor service, but do express yourself in whatever way feels good for you. This is how change happens – for the good.

Of course, this takes risks but aren’t things you want in life worth a risk? You can use your voice for good at work, in your business, in school, or in your community. Find ways you can do good and make a difference in our world – it all can start by taking the advice of a beauty queen and use your voice.

 

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