Have you ever gone back to a high school reunion?  If you have, you probably noticed how little some people changed while others seemed to have done a complete metamorphosis.

People who were barely noticed now own the room. The happy-go-lucky kid who had no ambition now radiates success. Or, maybe your high school quarterback managed to make time stand still – merely an older version of his youthful self. No changes. Same hometown. Still hanging with same friends.Still the same. 

The irony, however, is that it is the unassuming person or the happy-go-lucky kid who will hear the surprised ramblings of “You’ve really changed!” 

Hear me out. Maybe, just maybe, some people don’t change enough.

Two Kinds of Change

There are two kinds of change in life. Change in which you can plan and prepare and unexpected change. Unexpected change, now that is the one that throws us for a loop.

There’s an old saying that goes something like this (paraphrased), “No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and they’re not the same person.”

Rivers are free flowing and never stagnant. If you find a river that is stagnant, it’s generally a filthy mess and not one in which you want to step.

In our personal life and in our career, we have people streaming in and out, situations that arise, and happenings that pop up. Every new experience sets into motion forces that shape and change us. We start out as one person but through a series of mini transformations, we emerge as someone who is a mere shadow of the person we used to be. Most of us are not that same kid that we were in high school. Personal growth has a profound impact on every aspect and stage of our life, including our career.

How, then, can something that sounds so exhilarating scare us so much?

The simple answer? We are human.

Why Are We Afraid of Change?

Let’s face it. Not all change is positive. Change is alarming and change can be painful.It’s a threat to all that we like and know because change takes us out of our normal routine and forces us to dip our toe into uncharted waters. And, sometimes that water has a chilling effect. It makes us feel uncertain, question our abilities, and it leaves us with insecurities. It can be slow and frustrating and with its share of struggles and disappointments.

Yet through all the negativities, change can be profound. Change is perhaps the single most catalyst for personal growth which is vital to our maturity, success and happiness.

It is impossible to have a career without some degree of change. Whether is it modifications to your leadership team, a job change, a change of processes or policies, technology changes, a change in company culture, or performance expectations that are revamped, it is a matter of time before it happens to you. In life, personal change can be more traumatic.

It’s not fair to say to someone, “just get over it and deal with it.” Change is incredibly personal and will impact people differently. Telling someone to embrace the change can be too idealistic. An embrace sounds cozy and if you are the one who is not fond of change, you don’t want to cozy up to it. But, if you are forced to live with something you didn’t pick, you do have to figure out how to meet it on your own terms.  If it is going to happen, how can you make the change the most beneficial for you?

4 Ways to Tackle Unexpected Change

Change the Story

Our fear of change is based on the stories – both real and exaggerated – that we spin for ourselves. What is the first thing that happens when you learn of something new? You start configuring a narrative and making a mental list of the worst possible things that will happen to you. Rarely do we say, “fantastic! I can see all the good things that will happen to me now.” If you want some different outcomes, start by changing your story. You have choices. Even in the worst possible work situation, you have choices.  We think that we must settle for whatever the change dictates. No wonder change is so terrifying! There will always be some outcomes that are outside our span of control, but I guarantee you that there are some within your power of influence. Figure out what that is and figure out what you want to happen.

Be Thankful for the Unexpected Change

Yes, I’m serious. Don’t throw rotten tomatoes. This is not some sort of new age mumbo-jumbo garbage. Be an active participant in your change. Instead of thinking about all the worst-case scenarios, why not focus on wondering how you will be different because of this – because you will change. How will this change you emotionally and physically?  How will you be a different person? While life might be out of balance right now, how will this force you to revamp your decisions? Will your priorities change?  What about your values? How can you use this change to your benefit and improve your life and your career? Let your resilience and strength of character guide you to victory.

Find Someone Who’s Been There, Done That

Chances are this has happened to someone else before. The moment that you feel that you are the only one, look to your network.   Many people find that speaking with trusted friends, colleagues, or family can help provide unseen perspectives. Bear in mind that no two situations are the same, but there are common pieces of good advice that can help you.

One-by-one, Knock Out the Obstacles

The key to navigating change is breaking free of the obstacles that will hinder your progression. The more clarity and insight you have with possible setbacks, the more able you are to devise a plan to overcome them. Obstacles will be disguised in a variety of forms. It could be fears, fear of failure, fear of rejection, people, bosses, or a general lack of understanding about what the change means. Make a list and conquer them one-by-one.

And if you’re still not convinced that change can be exciting…

Without change, you’re stuck.

Same career.

Same life.

Same everything.

If you are seeking something new, see the change through the eyes of new possibilities.  Don’t allow your fear to outweigh your desire to have a career that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.YourBestLifeTodayCoaching.Com .