If you want to change, focus on what stays the same

If you want to change, focus on what stays the same

We usually think of change as a breakup, a revolution. A radical transformation. The problem is that sometimes this conception of change scares us and, far from encouraging us to change what needs to be changed, it paralyzes us, keeping us within the limits of our comfort zone. One solution to coping with change with less stress and anxiety is to focus on what stays the same.

Fear and uncertainty generate great resistance to change

Resistance to change usually arises from fear and uncertainty. When we focus on whatever is changing, we can experience a kind of psychological vertigo that makes us retreat to grab onto the safe and familiar. Consequently, we reject change, even though we are aware that it is necessary. We prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.

The fear of the unknown is so intense that it obscures our reason, dictating our decisions. The prospect of having to abandon many of the things we know, without knowing for sure what awaits us, makes us cling to our comfort zone, that space in which we feel safe because it is made up of familiar habits and things, although it is not the best place. to stay in.

Continuity is the way to mitigate the impact of change

Every change, however radical, always contains the seeds of the past. When the change that awaits us terrifies us, focusing on what will remain the same, on the things that will not change and will remain a common thread in our lives, will help us manage the anguish.

Psychologists at the University of Amsterdam put this idea to the test and found that when we focus on continuity and our essence, on things that will not change, we are more likely to accept the change and uncertainty that awaits us. In one of their experiments they recruited 208 students. Half received a letter from the principal communicating important changes in their curriculum. The other half received a letter informing them of the same changes, but at the same time conveying a vision of continuity of identity.

The researchers evaluated their support for change and their sense of identity. They found that the change was perceived more positively and received more support when presented by focusing on those things that would remain the same. Conversely, when the change generated enormous uncertainty, students were more reluctant to accept it.

How to find continuity in change?

If you need to make a big change in your life and the transformations that await you are generating anxiety, focus on what stays the same. Look for continuity in change because, however radical the transformation may be, there are always aspects that remain unchanged.

If you are planning to change jobs, instead of thinking you will have a new boss, think about the skills and experience you have gained and can use in your new job. If you are planning to move to another city or country, instead of focusing on the friends you leave behind, focus on those routines that you can maintain that make you feel good and safe.

After all, it's about understanding that there are many ways to expand the comfort zone. There are those who prefer to throw themselves into the unknown and those who prefer to explore the new one step at a time. Some changes don't have to be spectacular, they just happen. “It doesn't matter how slowly you go until you stop,” Confucius said.

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