Learn to Be A Master of Change

Life Balance

M.J. Ryan, Author

By M.J. Ryan

We live in a very uncertain time, and our bodies and minds pay the price. Stress levels and anxiety are, according to some scientists, 44% higher today than they were 50 years ago.

None of us know what the future holds, but there is something we can do right now to better prepare for unpredictable situations: develop the ability to adapt. "AdaptAbility" may be the key indicator of success in these turbulent times. It is the capacity to be flexible and resourceful in the face of ever-changing conditions -- to respond in a resilient and productive manner when change is required. Some of us already know how to do this easily. The rest of us need to learn--quickly.

Resisting change wears down our bodies, taxes our minds and deflates our spirits. When we resist change, we keep doing the things that have always worked before -- with depressingly diminishing results. Frustrated, we expend precious energy looking around for someone to blame—ourselves, another person, or the world. We worry obsessively. We get stuck in the past, lost in bitterness or anger. Or we fall into denial--  “Everything’s fine, I don’t have to do anything differently.” We may engage in magical thinking—“Something or someone will come along to rescue me from having to change.” We don’t want to leave the cozy comfort of the known and familiar for the scary wilderness of that which we’ve never experienced. And so we rail against it and stay stuck.

Fortunately, once you become conscious of how to adapt, you can face future changes with greater confidence and swiftness.

Here are 5 quick tips for riding the whitewater of change:

  1. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Because society rewards analytical thinking, we believe that identifying the cause of our problem is key -- “Why is this happening?” That’s a starting point, but don’t spend too much time there. Focus on possible solutions to your situation.
  2. Ask yourself, what opportunities has this change created that I/we can take advantage of? How can I/we turn this situation to our advantage? Use these classic entrepreneurial questions to get from where you are to where you want to be.
  3. If all else fails, fake it. What if you don’t believe you have the confidence or talent to find a solution? Pretend you do. It turns out the “Fake it ‘til you make it” approach has validity in brain science. The thoughts we hold and actions we take really do create new pathways in our brains.
  4. Prioritize. Ask yourself, what really matters right now? That’s a question that will help you keep your eye on priorities.
  5. Schedule “worry time.” If you find yourself worrying all the time, set aside a 15-minute worry time, say at 5pm every day. Then when your mind starts worrying at other times, tell yourself it’s not worry time and distract yourself—read a good book, do a puzzle, engage in something that occupies your mind. Keep the worrying isolated, and in that way, controlled.

When the environment changes and we must therefore too, it’s appropriate to complain, to take, in the words of Dr. Pamela Peeke, the BMW (Bitch, Moan and Whine) out for a little spin. But soon it’s time to put it back in the driveway and get down to business. We’re all being called on to stretch mentally, emotionally, and spiritually into the future. You can do it!

MJ Ryan is the author of THIS YEAR I WILL, How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution or Make a Dream Come True and ADAPTABILITY: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For and many other books. A member of Professional Thinking Partners, she works with individuals and teams around the world. Visit her website at

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