Over the last few months I have spent a great deal of time thinking about change. Everyone has a different attitude to change, whether it be fearing change – fearing that you will end up outside of your comfort zone and not be able to handle it, or embracing and actively encouraging change – people that feel stagnant or stuck in a rut if they do something for too long.
We experience a high rate of change between the ages of 18 to about 30 – a lot of it uncomfortable change that we feel is being forced upon us – leaving college and university and having to find a job, relationships forming and then breaking up, moving out of home and renting (or buying) for the first time, maybe moving away, making friends and losing friends. I sometimes feel like life is a little bit like that film ‘Sliding Doors’ – every time you make a decision you are standing at a metaphorical crossroads, and the path you choose ultimately affects the path you take in life. Even decisions that might seem insignificant at the time we can realise in hindsight completely changed our lives.
Because I work in the civil service in a corporate communications job I’ve been on a few change communications courses lately to learn how best to communicate changes to people in the workplace. What I learnt is that, despite the fact that most people have a fear of change, actually, human beings are the most adaptable to change of all species on the planet. We have learnt to live in a variety of climates (from the coldest to the hottest) in the harshest of conditions, and when pushed to the brink we have proved that we can adapt.
One thing that I have learnt through experience is that change isn’t something you can hide from or avoid. For example, a few months ago I made the decision to move out of Southampton city centre to a house I bought with my other half about 25 miles away. This was a difficult decision – meaning I would live 25 miles away from all of my friends, and 45 miles from my parents. Naturally the biggest push was the ability to live with my boyfriend and start our lives together, and the sacrifice of living so far from all my best friends was a tough pill to swallow – but we moved, and I have no regrets. Over the last few weeks I found out that two of my closest friends are now moving away – one to America, and one to Aberdeen. It made me realise that however you try and avoid change, you are not necessarily in control of all of the factors that make it up. Imagine if I’d decided to stay and Southampton – to try and cling on to my old life. They would have moved anyway, and I would have been left with only a couple of friends who live there (and they too, will surely eventually move on).
I read a book in college called ‘The McDonaldization of Society’, which dictates that humans have begun to rely more on a few various qualities in life than they ever have before. One of these qualities is predictability – meaning that more than ever people have started to structure their lives so that there is as little surprise and differentness as possible. It also suggests that people would rather do something they know is average than take a chance on something that could pay off. That’s why McDonalds is so popular – it may be rubbish food, but you know exactly what you’re getting.
I guess the message in this post is for people to stop being so afraid of change (I have to regularly tell myself to do this too). Life is too short to work a job that makes you unhappy, or to stay tied to a city you hate because you have friends there you’ve had for years. Doing things because you’ve always done them is no excuse to carry on doing them. Take risks, travel, try new things, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t cling to old memories and stop yourself from forming new ones. Nothing, nothing, is permanent.