Pushed or Pulled?

Change is never easy.  As human beings, we tend to resist upsetting the apple cart, even when the apples are rotten (or when we didn’t like apples to begin with).  Yet change is not only a part of life, the act of changing is part of the definition of what it means to be alive.

We often avoid, deny, delay or refuse to accept the changes that we perceive to be risky, frightening or negative.  Other personal changes we embrace with deep enthusiasm.  What makes the difference is how we view the change, and how our approach to change affects the outcome.

It’s human nature to resist anything we feel pushed into.  So if you’re feeling like a job or relationship change is being forced on you, fighting the shift is part of the natural self-preservation instinct.  Yet many times, the changes we initially fight turn out to be open doors to new possibilities.  How often have you heard about someone who was laid off from a job only to embark on a rewarding new career?  Or about people who mourned the loss of a less-than-ideal relationship until being single enabled them to meet the perfect partner?

As painful as “push” changes feel at the time, it’s important to reframe the situation into as many positives as you can imagine.  Moving from one city may mean leaving old friends behind, but it creates possibilities for job advancement, new friendships, travel adventures, and personal growth.  Leaving a job in a merger or layoff may mean uncertainty or temporary belt-tightening, but it may open up opportunities for a whole new career, additional education, and greater personal satisfaction.

What about the “pull” changes, the changes you can’t wait to initiate?  Often, the risk and uncertainty is just as great (or greater) with pull changes as with push changes, but because we are excited about the pull change, we zoom right by the risk with our eyes on the reward.  On one hand, that excitement can mean energy and enthusiasm to make the change happen.  On the other hand, too much starry-eyed excitement can blind you to real risks or challenges that need to be considered and addressed.

Maybe you can’t wait to start your new business.  That enthusiasm will be an asset for getting you through long hours, but make sure you slow down long enough to get good legal advice, fill out the necessary paperwork, and get your basic business systems set up.  Leaving a stifling relationship can be a very positive step toward personal growth, but without doing the homework to figure out why you were attracted to the bad relationship in the first place, you might get fooled again.

How can you reduce the stress change causes while remaining open to the best change has to offer?  Here are a few suggestions.

  • When change is on the horizon, make a quick assessment as to whether it’s a ‘push’ (externally-caused) or ‘pull’ (internally-caused) change.  Recognizing the source of change can help you avoid missing the benefits of a push change or overlooking the risks of a pull change.
  • Whether the change is pull or push, give yourself time to acknowledge and feel the loss, knowing that even when things turn out for the best, it’s difficult to say good-bye to what’s been familiar.
  • Consciously reframe change to look for benefits as opposed to dwelling on fear, risk and loss.
  • If you’re not sure what the benefits might be, get help from a coach, trusted friend, or professional counselor to help you identify opportunity and avert risk.
  • Spend time thinking about who you want to be in this new, changed world.  Do you need to let go of some old habits, mental attitudes, or outdated image?  How can you adapt to make the change as positive as possible?
  • Relax and enjoy the ride.  Even when a change is one you have desired and worked hard to achieve, there will be bumps and surprises.  Trust in your ability to handle what comes your way and relax.

While change can be stressful, it can also be exciting, energizing, and growth producing.  When the winds of change blow, embrace them and let them help you soar!


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