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Why We Resist Change

This lesson is a part of an audio course How to Thrive During Uncertainty by Julia Barbosa

In this lesson, you will learn about change, and why it is natural to resist it.

Most people don't like change. In his book Organization Development: Strategies and Models, Richard Beckhard highlights that people are hardwired to prefer certainty and consistency. That is because the amygdala perceives change as a threat, so the brain responds to change using the fight or flight mechanism.

When we're exposed to change, big or small, everyone reacts differently. And there's no right or wrong reaction. Enjoying a big change is less frequent than resisting it, but it's still a normal reaction. This means that when we face a new situation, we should recognize that we, and those around us, will react in their own way, and that is neither good nor bad.

It is also good to remember that even good changes can lead to resistance. People tend to oppose change not because they don't think the change itself can be positive, but because resistance is a common response to any situation of change.

And also think about the effect that your reactions can have on those around you.

Listening and reassuring others is the best way to move forward. After all, change, like stability - is not forever either, and people eventually move on from their initial resistance. Being a good friend will take you a long way.

We like to think logically, and expect that events in the world will happen in an orderly fashion. A study from Ohio State University showed that our brains like consistency and patterns, and that is how we construct our understanding of the world.

But there's plenty of space for the unexpected to be positive too. The concept of serendipity teaches us that auspicious things may not happen as we anticipate them to.

We don't need to anticipate what is coming up, simply because we don't and can't know what that will be.

Change and Communication

We are accustomed to learning about global events as and when they happen, and many of us check the news before we even get out of bed.

The problem with this constant exposure to the news is that the way it is communicated is not always aimed at simply informing. You may learn about a certain event through catchy headlines, which are designed to get a strong reaction. It's easy to get lost in updates and to click away to the latest piece of news. But this doesn't give us time to understand and process that information.

"Headline stress disorder" is a term coined by Steven Stosny, Ph.D., which refers to anxiety caused by exposure to the news cycle.

The way we understand and process information can be very helpful in helping us deal with uncertainty. Of course, there are many urgent matters happening in the world, but instead of simply being overwhelmed by it all, we can instead choose to focus our energy and our actions on the few things that matter most to us.

This way we can not only cope better with the amount of information that we receive but also we can be more effective about taking action. Taking time off the news allows us to reduce the noise and process what we learned so that we can be more effective and more focused.

We can choose what information we consume and how we do it. It is easy to forget that we have a choice when we're being exposed to it all the time, but in practice, it is not that hard to implement. Taking time off the news, for whatever time that may be, can be a useful exercise to try.

If you notice that the news is not good for you, then try this out: spend one day without checking any news (even on social media) and see what happens.

In the next lesson, we will talk about how mindfulness can help with the change.

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Written by

Julia Barbosa

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