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The more things change, the more you need to know

Change can come in all sorts of guises and layers. Sometimes it comes from within: I want to quit smoking; I want to learn Spanish. Sometimes from without: Hurricane Sandy flooded my house; my girlfriend broke up with me. And sometimes change just happens with no warning whatsoever: a tree fell on my parked car; I just discovered I have cancer. Regardless of the "why," change can bring anxiety, fear, concern or worry. Even so-called good changes - think of a wedding, or job promotion - can find us feeling uncomfortable. Why is that?

I often remind clients to think of change using the metaphor of the lowly lobster. A lobster has an exoskeleton; its structural support system is on the outside. In order to grow, it has to molt, that is, it has to break out of its shell. But when it does, it is highly vulnerable. It takes several weeks for a new exoskeleton or shell to harden. So there's a period of exposure, almost defenselessness, while the lobster adapts to its new level of maturity and regains that structure that supports it.

We're like that too. In our comfort zone (e.g., school, home, relationship, job) we know where we stand. We know how to navigate with confidence. But when that is changed, whether by our own decision or by events outside of our control, we may feel as if we've lost our support system. We may feel unprotected and untethered.

Look at Nature: constantly giving birth to itself, nurturing growth, supporting independence, acknowledging maturity, counseling the transition from old age to death, and patiently, knowingly, expecting birth again. To go from vulnerable to adaptive to ready is to be strong - again and again and again. Just like the lobster. Just like Mother Nature.

The next time you are in the midst of a change and you find that you're trash-talking to yourself for not handling it well, I suggest you try another approach. First, just let it be what it is. Something has changed. That's all. No matter why, it has. Once you accept that a change has happened, you can acknowledge that, as a result, you may feel out of your element, out of control, overwhelmed, in short, vulnerable.

With acceptance comes the beginning of resuming your personal power. As you acknowledge your own vulnerability, you realize that you still retain the mastery of personal choice. Remember the lobster: Although vulnerable at the moment, change is coming from necessary personal growth. You realize that you are the creator of your own life. You alone get to decide how and when you will move forward. You alone will adapt to whatever new reality is before you with a maturity that likely was necessary and fundamental to the change happening in the first place.

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