Change, no pun intended, is a very volatile word. Ask people how they feel about change and, normally, you’ll get very polarizing answers: from very exciting to frightening.
“Change”, by definition, can be both a noun and a verb. My hope is not to start a grammar conversation but help you understand how the way we use words impact our behavior. And, when it comes to change, this is more evident.
Through years of observation, I learned that people’s relationship with change is directly linked to whether they consider “change” as a verb or as a noun. Which is to you?
Our Obsession With Change
Are we obsessed with change? In order to address this question, I run some numbers on Google. We all know we have an obsession with pets: from humanizing dogs in a bizarre way to cats playing keyboards, we have a fascination with animals on the Internet. Surprisingly enough, the amount of searches on the word “change” overshadows those on “pets”. Same happens with “2016 elections” even though it was one of the most polemic presidential elections of all times.
Clearly, it’s hard to beat our obsession with change. Well, only until we add “sex” into the equation.
Change: A Threatening Noun
As a society we idolize change makers. Startups, entrepreneurs, artists, risk takers are always at the front of the media. What intrigues me is that, people love change but don’t want to change.
When change knocks at our door, we tend to feel as threatened as a polar bear caught in piece of melting Arctic ice. Global warming, for that same reason, scares the hell out of us. Most people think of change as something external, something that happens to them, a potential threat. That’s when we see change as a noun.
So how do we react to this “external threat”? We try to control it or anticipate it. The weather is a perfect example. We check our apps and dress accordingly, in an anticipatory fashion. Temperature is no longer something that we feel but something we are being told.
From elections results predictions to weather forecast or the Dow Jones, we spend millions of dollars (and hours) trying to anticipate results. And, regardless the error margin, many times the results are not what we expected. And I’m not concerned about the validity of predictive analytics but to our emotional reactions when “things go wrong”. Instead of feeling surprised -a positive reaction- we feel betrayed by a reality that didn’t please our expectations. That’s because we resist change.
Reframe Your Mindset: From “Stuck” to “Change”
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall in place.” — Lao Tzu
Yes, changes might be external. But our reactions, are not. And that’s crucial to keep in mind. Always.
We cannot control aging (though we spend money to hide it) but we can manage how we react to our body changing shape and colors.
From major to minor, changes like the ones above are part of our daily lives. Yet, every time we face them, we don’t want to accept them. We fight back. “This can not be happening to me”- we say to ourselves, getting caught by a “drama” mindset.
The mindset we adopt determines our perspective, which impacts our ability to deal with change. We need to flex our inner muscle to move from a “Stuck Mindset” to a “Change Mindset”.
That’s why I want to encourage you to start thinking of change as a verb. Think of it as something that you can make happen by playing an active role. Reframe your mindset: take ownership on how you let change impact you.
“It’s not about you” — I normally tell people when they feel “attacked” by change. Be generous: think of what might be causing that “train delay” not just that you will be late to work. Sometimes, things that might look wrong to you might benefit someone else. Realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around is hard. I know. I’m not telling you not to care or to stop feeling, simply to be more mindful and not let your feelings take over your behavior. To move on beyond a perfectionist -anticipatory- approach; learn to go with the flow, have a more experimental mindset. Stop overthinking and act more, don’t be afraid to launch yourself into the unexpected. That’s life.
Everything Changes When You See “Change” As a Verb
“I’m going to change my diet.”
“I’m changing my relationship.”
“I’m changing jobs.”
“I’m changing my look.”
“I’m changing my priorities.”
When you see change as a verb, your relationship with “change” changes. You feel in control: you start playing an active role in your life rather than being a passive victim.
Stretching our brain muscle to develop a “Change Mindset” takes time and effort. I will go deeper into how to reframe your mindset in future posts. For now, let’s start by warming up your mind: please pause before you act. Next time, when facing something unexpected, instead of reacting to it, reflect.
How might you turn it into a verb?
How might you take ownership of your emotions and behaviors?
How might you embrace change and open up to new possibilities?
Soon you’ll realize how everything changes when you start seeing “change” as a verb.
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