Article written by: Debbie Stokes
How many of you look forward to change?
How many of you find it hard to change?
How many of you find it hard to accept change when it happens?
Depending on what question you identify with the most is how your life is impacted. The question is, Do you learn and grow from it or do you let it stop or sidetrack you?
Remember, change can be good or bad, it’s how you look at it.
I remember years ago in my college business class, we were asked to read a book called, “Who Moved My Cheese?” Afterwards, we had to write a report about it. This little book with big letters changed my life because it made me look at “change” differently. It made me change the way I looked at things, people and myself, giving me a new perspective on my thinking and vision.
The truth is that change is inevitable and you can’t stop it, even if you wanted. In fact, change happens every day with or without your consent; and whether you know it or not, you become a part of the change. If you look at your job, rules and ways of doing things, all are always changing. The city or state you live in constantly make changes that affect you. There is change in government policies that affect you. Television and cable stations constantly make changes, money changes, friends change, feelings change, situations change, your choices change, and there is even change in your family. As you can see, change happens… to you… for you… because of you… around you… and despite you. So, like I said, change is inevitable and you can’t stop it.
With all that in mind, the question you should ask yourself is, “How do I handle this change or how can I make this change work for me?” By simply changing the question from a negative to a positive, you change your attitude; therefore, you change your reaction and possibilities.
You see the power of our thinking can help build, focus or redirect our actions. On the other hand, if we aren’t careful, our thinking can destroy, confuse or weaken us. What matters most are your choices of mindset, and then your response to the choices you make. With that said, “How does change affect you?”
After reading the book and having my own experiences, I have learned things about dealing with change that have given me a positive outlook on life and people, and given me the power to welcome change; all because I realize, it’s not about what happens, but how you deal with what happens. Armed with that strength and knowledge, I have managed to wear a smile on my face and keep my faith on high, knowing that God wouldn’t put more on me than I can bear. And knowing whatever I encounter is meant to make me stronger, wiser or better; therefore, I have learned to welcome change with open arms and maybe you can too by following the 3 steps that I have used and still use today.
1) Identify your strengths and weaknesses
It is important to get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, list your strengths and on the other side write your weaknesses. As you begin to write, be honest with yourself; doing this will allow you to come face-to-face with what has you bound and what empowers you. Anytime you deal with change, it will either attack your weaknesses or fortify your strengths causing the way you respond to change to be altered. Remember, your positive reaction to change will come from your strength side; thereby, creating a positive attitude and outcome. In contrast, a negative response to change comes from your weakness. So therefore, if you change your thinking to embrace change positively from the inside, you will change your outlook and reaction.
This step took me awhile because I wasn’t willing to be honest with myself. Perhaps, I was naïve. I didn’t want to admit that I was gullible with people’s sad stories and trusted everybody. I wanted to believe everybody was good, and if I was good and kept my smile, things would always be alright. Until one day, when I was about 30 years old, I was robbed at gunpoint in a store by two men. I was with my 8-year-old daughter at the time, and there was also another person in the store. The man with the gun stood in front of me and demanded my money. When I reacted too slow, he slapped me and went down my blouse and took it. To make matters worse, they even took my daughter’s money out of her pocket (just 60 cents). I was fuming on the inside. However, there was nothing I could do, but do what was necessary to live for my daughter and me. That experience cut like a knife, and I never looked at people the same again. In fact, it caused me to change my thinking forever, as it relates to how I evaluate my surroundings and the people in my space. Because of that experience, I have become more observant. In fact, I changed that negative experience into a positive outcome by opening my eyes and paying attention.
With that said, use what you write down to discover how you can improve on your strengths to be able to control the impact of change on your attitude; thereby, letting change be a welcomed positive.
2) Surround yourself with positive people
I know you may ask yourself, “Why is this necessary?” Well, the reason is because being around positive people teaches you to look at things differently. Where there is positivity, new ideas, and new challenges… doors open. Where there is positivity, you shield yourself from negative thoughts, people, places, and things.
What I have learned is that in a negative environment it only begets more negativity. In fact, when you are around negative people and things, you deny yourself the chance to grow, the chance to learn coping skills, and to think effectively. Realistically, you manage to take on the vibe of the people you attach yourself to. I know you’ve heard the saying, “You are who you hang around.” What a true statement because for you to hang around certain people, it means you have taken on their mannerisms, beliefs and drive or lack thereof. In fact, you have made the choice to not be different. In other words, you have chosen to fit in, so you won’t stand out.
I remember, when I was about 15 years old and my parents weren’t home one Saturday, and my oldest brother stopped passed our house for a visit. He was eight years older than me. The problem is he was on drugs and I didn’t know it. I remember it like it was yesterday. After we talked for quite awhile; from out of the blue, he suddenly told me to close the kitchen door and I questioned over and over again, “why,” while I did it anyway. Without warning, he whipped out his drug paraphernalia to get high. Understandably, I was shaken to my core. I remember, a pipe, a syringe, a cigarette lighter, a little baggie, and a small container that he used to cook it in. Back then, I wasn’t familiar with that stuff. I had never seen anybody get high. Then, he proceeded to tell me what he was about to do. He advised me if he passed out to call the police and he told me what to tell them. Being a “nice” sister, I said okay. In shock, I watched, as he stuck the needle in his arm. I remember him going from talking and laughing to immediately into a zombie state. His head sloped down, and his mouth went sideways as he nodded. He went from being functional to dysfunctional. From that point, I had a change of heart about anybody that got high. My immediate response was if drugs could be that powerful and do that to a person, I wanted no parts of it. He went from having control to no control. In that moment, I made the decision to change the situation. I left the room. What I saw my brother do had a profound impact on me, and I knew I would never want to get high. The irony of it all was the moment before he pierced the needle through his arm, he looked at me and said, “I better not ever hear about you getting high.” How profound.
But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the ways to change your thinking is to change your environment. When you are in a negative environment, you can’t see pass your pains, your struggles, or your defeats. But if you remove yourself from the chaos, you will begin to see things more clearly. Now, it’s true that we all can’t change our environment financially or for some other reason, but because you are in it doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it. Some ways you can change your environment are:
- Read positive books
- Watch positive programs on TV and the Internet
- Engage in positive conversations with positive people, and remove yourself from any negative people or situations
- Repeat positive affirmations
- Learn to say “NO” to anyone or anything that can cause you to stray in a negative direction
- Don’t share your dream with people who are not dreamers, believers or doers
- Start a business to occupy your time, preferably something you love to do
- Find someone who is doing something positive that you want to do, and learn from them; ask questions
- Walk away from negative people, conversations, and situations, this includes complainers
- Honor your space, time and yourself; and practice self-love and being grateful
- Get a mentor to help steer you in your life, love, health or business
I realize you may not do them all at once, but the key is to at least start with one, then work through the list to help develop you. After you have developed a consistent and positive pattern of lifestyle using these tips, you will find that how you deal with change will emphatically affect your response and attitude for the better because you will have realized that change is a part of life. Remember, you move towards what you think about; so, find positive things to do and think about to move you forward. In that way, as change happens, you will be better prepared and more well-rounded to deal with the change.
3) Find the good in things
This may be hard for some people because of the circumstances or situations one may have been put through, for instance: drug or alcohol addiction, physical, sexual, psychological or mental abuse, incarceration or any life-altering thing or illness that has happened. Yet, even through the darkness, there is good that can come out of it. With drug addiction… you didn’t die from an overdose. You’re still here, even when others didn’t make it, you were given another chance. With any type of abuse… you made it out alive in your right mind. The perpetrator did everything to try and break you, but thank God you survived. Think about all those who don’t make it. God picked you to live, and now you can write a new chapter in your life. With incarceration… you were put through the test with your will to survive. You had to endure inhumane conditions that challenged your fight and faith. And through it all, you learned to develop a strength to withstand conditions that shake so many people’s sanity. You learned to forget about your wants, and how to sacrifice to get through your time in that hell hole. When so many incarcerated people fight for their spirit, their life, their womanness, their beliefs, their values, you found a way, and God chose you to rise from it. You are now blessed to be an example to others that people can change. With illnesses or life-altering conditions… you may have been dealt a mighty blow with a major illness or situation, but if you are still here, you are blessed. God chose you to make it through. So often, we think about the personal situation or illness we experience and we complain, but we never think about people who are worse off or who didn’t make it through their condition. It is my belief, we are given personal challenges to help strengthen and guide us to an understanding that’s only meant for the person going through it. Perhaps, it’s about a spiritual awakening, personal development, strengthening beliefs, developing faith or understanding what you’re made of. The point is you made it through; and hopefully, it changed your heart, mind or soul in someway. In fact, it probably taught you how circumstances can change your perspective.
Then, there are the complainers, doubters and fearful. If you can practice re-training your mind to think another way, more often than not, you will prepare yourself for challenges that may come your way. And you will begin to find the strength, gain the knowledge, and possess the power to attack or accept change head on creating a life of fearlessness.
Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, surrounded yourself with positive people, and found the good in things, you are giving your mind permission to think, feel and act differently; which in turn, will create a person that is fearless in life and welcomes change knowing that with change comes, promise and new possibilities.
Question: Thinking about what you read, how do you feel about change, and how well do you adapt to it?
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