The secret to coping with change

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“Show of hands. How many people like surprises? Bullshit! You like the surprises you want to happen. Everything else you call a problem.” Anthony Robbins

“A surprise is nothing more than a sudden change.” John Elrick

photo_9510_20091105The one constant in the universe is change. Change in one form or another happens around us all the time. Well, not really, but it seems that way.

Here is a quick demonstration of what I mean. Look around you. Now close your eyes and count to ten slowly. Then open them and notice what changed. Sometimes nothing will and, as a matter of fact, if you are sitting in your house at night, probably not a lot did change that you could notice.

Globally, however, change is happening all the time. People are born and people die. New rules are created and old rules become obsolete. New technology is introduced and old technologies disappear. And, in a world where information is at our fingertips and we are bombarded with raw data, it can seem that we are riding an out-of-control truck to nowhere.

Yet, as you just learned in that little experiment, things really don’t change that much. The problem is that when they do, it can be sudden and overwhelming.

Back to Tony’s observation — for the most part, change takes two forms:

  • Happy surprises: these are things you want to change
  • Problems you have to deal with: these are the things you don’t want to change

The issue of coping with change is complicated by the fact that one person’s happy surprise is another person’s problem. To cope better, we must first understand how our brain is processing a problem and reacting to it. There is a concept called Human Needs Psychology which I have mentioned in several posts — I should probably devote a posting to explaining what I understand at this time; later.

Human Needs Psychology was developed by Tony Robbins and Cloé Madanes as a model for understanding human motivation and behavior. One of the core concepts of this model is the proposition of the Six Human Needs. This underlying proposition is that all human behavior can be explained as an attempt to meet one or more of these needs. The idea is that these represent needs, not wants or desires, and that every human will attempt to meet them at some level even if the means they use is destructive and contrary to their values.

The needs are: certainty, variety, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution. I won’t go into huge detail right now. I’ll let Tony explain it instead — note this is a tiny bit of the detail the RMT Core 100 goes into on this subject; what you are watching is the most basic possible overview.

How do the human needs respond to changes which are problems? Let’s look:

  • Certainty: in the face of an unwanted change, our level of certainty plummets. We feel out of control and can no longer rely upon those things we know.
  • Variety: although change creates new opportunities, our perceived ability to create our own opportunities drops significantly
  • Significance: since it is an unwanted change being imposed upon us by external events, we feel impotent and insignificant
  • Connection/love: unwanted change implies that our existing connections will change also. We feel isolated and alone
  • Growth: we can feel that we must grow in order to cope with the unwanted change, however, this means to us that we no longer have as much freedom to choose how we will grow.
  • Contribution: since the change was forced upon us, we feel our contributions are being rejected and ignored.

In general, unwanted change can trigger unbelievably low feelings if we let them. However, we must also remember the word of Dr. Victor Frankl.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl

How can we transform unwanted change into a powerful opportunity? By leading with the fulfillment of our needs in a new way.

  • Love/connection: unwanted change affects others as well. We can choose to act from a place of love to support those affected by the change in a positive way. This automatically leads to;
  • Contribution: by acting as the source of stability to others through our expressions of connection and support, we contribute to others and move our focus to fulfilling their needs without the need to receive in return, and that gives us;
  • Growth: to give love and contribute when faced with unwanted changes means that we must grow inside, we transform ourselves to a higher level of action and being and that leads us to;
  • Significance: Kipling long ago said “if you can keep your head while all those about you are losing theirs…”. Truer words were never said. You will become very important, but only if you don’t sugar coat reality. You must toe the line between being optimistic and pessimistic and instead be realistic, but with an unrealistic expectation of a better future. And dancing this line means you will be creating;
  • Variety: you and you alone will come up with the little exciting things that keep morale high and give everyone something to look forward to, even as they struggle with their own versions of problems. And all of this leads to;
  • Certainty: because all of these things, all of these actions are completely in your locus of control. You can decided to act and how to respond and the meaning to assign. You can do so until the moment you draw your last breath and no one — no dictator, no terrorist, no act of hate — can take this power away from you. Live in the certainty that this is so.

Change is a constant. Some changes are good. Some are not. But what matters in the end, what determines the quality of live we will experience is not measured in how many changes we create or how many we resist. In the end, our happiness will be measured in how we responded to the changes around us and how we helped others both celebrate and endure the changes that impact their lives.