To Accept Change, First Manage Fear

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Not many people like change. Change is hard. But, why? According to Google, it’s because of fear. Fear of losing something valuable. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown.

The Future of Work is bringing change. There’s no avoiding it. Change will occur at ever increasing speeds. Each step toward full automation and AI implementation will bring change. Jobs will be lost. New jobs will be created. Training will be needed. That cycle may repeat once or twice in a career.

Learning to accept change and adapting to change will be key. But, if change is hard because of fear, then learning to manage fear will also be key.

So, how do you teach someone to manage fear?

When I worked as an attorney helping clients navigate life’s legal challenges, I inevitably found myself helping clients manage fears. They too were facing changes, often beyond their control.

Just acknowledging the existence of fear was difficult for some. Clients could more easily say they were angry, or worried, or confused. But, talking about fear, that wasn’t easy. So, I often counted on Grover, the furry blue monster from Sesame Street, and his timeless book, to help start the conversation.

The Monster at the End of this Book is nearly 50 years old. It’s one of the best books about fear ever written. Multiple generations have either read the story, or it was read to them. Making it a familiar place to start.

As you’ll likely recall, Grover was afraid of monsters. And, he thought there was a monster at the end of the book. Grover, desperately, did not want to get to the end of the book.

At first, Grover pleaded with the reader — “Stop. Turning. Pages!” With each page turned, Grover gets closer to the monster at the end of the book.

But, of course, the reader keeps turning pages. So, Grover tries to stop the pages from being turned. He ties pages together. He builds a brick wall.

But, of course, pages continue to turn. The tension builds. Grover’s fear is palpable. Then, it’s the end of the book. And, . . . .

Turns out, there was nothing to fear. **Spoiler Alert!** The monster at the end of the book was Grover. Furry, lovable Grover. Who, now, is embarrassed for having been so fearful.

It’s such a great story because every one can relate. We can all remember a time when we were so afraid of something that we begged and pleaded with the universe. We may have even tried to control the outcome. Perhaps making a terrible mess in the process. Just like Grover.

But, then, once the end finally arrived, our perception changed, and our fear seemed irrational.

Fear is a natural, and at times a very valuable, emotion. But, as it relates to change, fear is a hindrance. It keeps us from preparing. It prevents us from adapting. When we’re fearful, our judgment is clouded. We make decisions based on emotion rather than logic.

Grover was forced to face his fear. And, once he faced it, all his work to avoid it, turned out to be pointless. It’s far better to acknowledge the fear, develop a plan for managing it, and keep moving forward.

From my experience, just reminding my clients of Grover’s story helped them identify what they were feeling — fear. It helped them see that their efforts in stalling or avoidance were pointless — the pages were still being turned. And, it helped them accept that maybe their fear was a bit irrational.

While written to entertain toddlers, I have repeatedly found the book allegorical for adults. I think it can serve the same purpose for today’s students, tomorrow’s workers. As their world of work continuously changes, they too can be reminded of the timeless lessons in that blue monster’s book.

So, how do you teach someone to mange fear? Teach them that often what we fear is not as big or bad as we think. Often, it’s nothing more than lovable, furry old Grover.