Shifting Gears: How We Perceive Change


Like it or not, change is inevitable. We change jobs, move houses and make new friends. However, how we perceive change varies from person to person. Ever wondered how this works?

Each person has a certain model in their brain which contains some idea of how life is supposed to be. When things in that model alter, you move out of your comfort zone. The paradigm you have of life is very personal and develops throughout time, but is for the most part established during childhood. We tend to gravitate back to our experiences we have as children because that is when our paradigm is set up. Childhood experiences become prototypes that future experiences are compared to. That paradigm in the mind is like a circle: a personal circle of change. The middle part is your comfort zone, then you have a discomfort zone and the outside ring is the panic zone. The size and content of the comfort zone is different from person to person. For example, in my case, changing a job causes more stress than moving houses because I have moved houses 15 times before. This could be considered in my comfort zone, changing jobs, slightly outside of it.

Sometimes it is not the specific change in itself you are afraid of, but the concept of change. For some people, change in itself is in their panic zone. It takes up energy, brings insecurities and allows for possible disappointment. However, that is just one side of looking at it.

That change takes up energy at first is inevitable, but often change occurs when you are not happy with where something is going now. In that case, change might be a good thing and provide you with more energy over the long term. When a plant does not grow, you change its environment, not the plant.

As for insecurities, they are open seas in which you can discover the most incredible islands. You may not feel in control of the possibilities but you don’t always have to know the destination for it to be beautiful.

Lastly, possible disappoint is also possible success.

If you still feel like you are hit with a stress bomb every time your life takes a turn, you might need a little more practice. Train your brain and get familiar with the concept. If you experience change in a variety of ways, it will allow you to operate with the understanding that change is something you can survive and even benefit from. The information stored in your mind will then provide evidence that stress is unnecessary. Of course, getting to this point is easier said than done. You need to take driving lessons to learn how to switch gears in the same way you need to take life lessons to learn how to handle change. Sometimes life is like cruising on a highway: month after month seems more of the same. Other times we stumble upon a dirt road or have to take a sudden turn. That is when we have to shift gears to adjust to a new situation. If you are an experienced driver you don’t even think about it, you just go. That is exactly how to handle change, just go. It will bring you places.

Eva van der Graaf. Born in The Netherlands. Raised in Africa. MSc Animal Science. Freelance Writer and Translator. Owner of WritingBy. Hippie at Heart.