So how do we get good at change? Some suggestions that are working for me (I’m still learning):
Try something new, but small and safe. New things can be scary because we’re afraid we’re going to fall on our faces. But if it’s something small — learning to juggle beanbags in our living room, learning to balance on a rope that’s close to the ground, listening to a language-learning podcast, for example — it’s not as scary. There’s no real risk of getting hurt. And the more we do this, in small, non-scary steps, the more confidence we’ll gain that new things are not painful.
When you mess up, don’t see it as painful failure. When you’re doing new things, there will be times when you make mistakes, mess up, “fail”. But these words are associated with negative things, like pain … instead, start to look at mistakes and “messing up” as something positive — it’s the only way to learn. Messing up is a way to get better at something, to grow, to get stronger.
See the wonder and opportunity in change. Change might mean leaving a comfort zone, and losing something (or someone) you love, but there’s much more: it’s the bringing of something new and amazing, a new opportunity to explore and learn and meet new people and reinvent yourself. When change happens, look for the wonder in it, the new doors that have opened.
Ask “what’s the worst-case scenario”? If you’re exposing yourself, getting out of your comfortable environment, leaving behind security … it can be scary, but when you think about what is the worst thing that is likely to happen, usually it’s not that bad. If you lost all your possessions today in a disaster, how bad would that be? How would you cope? What opportunities would there be? What new things could you invent from this blank slate?
Develop a change toolset. Learn how to cope with changes, no matter what they are. Have a fall-back plan if things collapse. Have friends and family you can call on. Develop some skills where you can get a job or start a new business no matter what happens with your current job or the economy. Learn ways of making friends with strangers, finding your way around a strange city, surviving on little. With a toolset like this, you can feel confident that you can handle just about anything that comes.
Become aware of your clinging. Watch yourself clinging to something when you feel fear and pain. What are you clinging to? Often it’s just an idea — the idea of you and a romantic partner, an image of who you are. Become aware of what’s going on.
See the downsides of clinging. Once you see your clinging more clearly, see the pain that results from it. If you’re clinging to your stuff, see the space it takes up, and the extra rent that costs you … see the mental energy it takes to live with all the stuff, the money you’ve spent on it, the lack of space you have to live. Anything you cling to has a downside — we only see the good side of it, and so we want to cling to it.
Experience the joy in the unknown. When something new happens, when you don’t know — we often see this as bad. But can we re-frame it so that it’s something joyful? Not knowing means we are free — the possibilities are limitless. We can invent a new path, a new identity, a new existence. This can be joyful.