Change is hard. Almost nobody enjoys having to leave their comfortable ruts, with their predictable routines and familiar habits. We stick with them because they’re what we know, because being surprised by an outcome is potentially unpleasant and we’d prefer to avoid disappointment even if it might mean missing out. It’s understandable that we would want to stay with what we know in the areas we can control, what with the world forcing change upon us everywhere else. However – and you knew this was coming – the very fact that change is hard may be the reason you should try to introduce it into your life intentionally, instead of waiting for fate to do it all for you.
Making small changes can build resilience so that you are more prepared for big changes, whether you want them or not. By setting up obstacles for yourself, you can stretch only to the edges of your comfort zone instead of being catapulted far beyond your borders. You can also set up changes that are relatively low-consequence if you can’t adapt to them quickly or fully. For instance, you can take a new route to a regular destination because you aren’t in a rush one day, and drive down roads and into neighborhoods you might not otherwise see. Think of it as a way of cultivating a growth mindset, where you believe you can work through and conquer challenges. It’ll make a later tough commute resulting from closed roads much less stressful because you’ll be more used to taking unfamiliar roads, or even be lucky enough to be detoured through areas you’ve seen on your explorations. It’s not about making incremental changes for the sake of results so much as making incremental changes for the practice of process. If you get lost, it’ll be okay because you won’t be in a rush and you can consult a map or GPS.
Deciding to make changes on your timelines allows you to control their pacing, which is particularly helpful when you sense inevitable change coming down the pike. Keeping your head in the sand won’t make those types of things pass you by, and pretending not to see them will make them like the punch that knocks a boxer out. Preparing for what you can foresee isn’t just bracing for impact, though, and can include either changes that will help you get ready or changes that will leapfrog you in front of the problem that might otherwise result. Think of your landlord putting your lovely rental house on the market. That “For Sale” sign going up might be an indication to start increasing your savings rate and going through the extra junk you’ve acquired so you are ready to move before you’re kicked out with only a few weeks to find a new place and pack up. The worst that happens then would be that you’ve cleaned out your place and have extra padding in your emergency fund. The best that happens might be that you end up moving to an even more beautiful home all on your own, regardless of what happens with that sale. Either way, you’ll have gotten ahead of the rush and panic that could otherwise result.
The thing about comfort is that it’s only comfortable, but it isn’t necessarily the best you could have. By experimenting with changing things here and there, you might discover something better than what you are currently satisfied with. When a state of being is all you have ever known or can remember, it might seem just fine. Until and unless you stretch yourself, you don’t know what else is out there. It can be as simple as having used cheap ballpoint pens forever, then finally splurging on an expensive rollerball or fountain pen, or even just a slightly nicer gel pen. Actually spending money on something like that might seem silly, especially when you could just keep using the freebies and you’re afraid of losing your nice, new writing utensil somewhere. But the smoother and more enjoyable writing experience might also become a new simple and low-cost form of self-care for you that you discover you can’t live without. The stakes are tiny, and you might think that kind of change isn’t hard at all – and that’s the point, because if this isn’t so bad, maybe some other, larger change to seek improvement might also be worthwhile. Today, a pen; tomorrow, perhaps your career.
We might never get to the point where we embrace change and look for newness every time we tun around. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the ordinary, the commonplace, the things that we recognize and know. The problem is that we can’t always control when change will come find us, and being used to shifting gears will mean the upheaval is less scary and disconcerting. Being able to take change in stride, to face it and find ways to make it work, requires practice and habituation to being uncomfortable with leaving the well-trodden roads of your daily life. You can do it with small things that don’t change a lot, but just enough to make the idea of different more exciting, more of something to look forward to, so that when a big adjustment comes, you’ll be able to think of change as challenging, but not insurmountable.