How to deal with change you didn’t ask for

Stuck moment: Wait, you changed the process? But I’ve never done it that way before, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be much good at it. Yeah, I’m not really warming up to this idea. You all have fun with that — I’ll just stick to what I know.

* * *

Sure, there are thrill-seekers who feel most alive when they’ve got one foot dangling off the edge of the known universe. And then there’s the rest of us. Reluctant Adapters. Creatures of comfort who quite enjoy the feeling of steady ground beneath our feet.

When change is afoot, it’s the ambiguity that gets us stuck. How will the change affect me? Am I losing something as a result? I don’t understand how this will work. Consequently, our reactions don’t mirror our best selves. We cling to what we know, avoid what’s coming, and generally start hating what we wish weren’t inevitable.

There’s got to be a better way!

And there is. But before we can change our reaction to the new and unknown, we need to own our current behavior. There are at least four ways we get stuck when faced with change. Take our mini-quiz to find yours.

Reluctant Adapter mini-quiz
Think of a time when a change in your life made you feel unsure or even fearful. What did you Feel, Think, and Do? Pick one from each group. To get the most accurate results, answer quickly, letting your instincts take the lead.

What did you Feel when you were unsure about the change?
A. Cautious
B. Impatient
C. Possessive
D. Indignant

What did you Think when you were unsure about the change?
A. This might be good…or not.
B. What’s wrong with how we’ve always done it?
C. This doesn’t bode well.
D. You’ve got to be kidding me. 

What did you Do when you were unsure about the change?
A. Found out what other people were going to do.
B. Looked the other way.
C. Tried to find a loophole.
D. Dug in my heels.

If you chose mostly A answers, read about You-First Adapters, below. Mostly B’s, you’re likely a Pragmatic Adapter. C’s are Self-Protective Adapters, and D’s are Resentful Adapters. If you had a mix of letters, you’re a hybrid, which means you’ll find parts of yourself in all four types.

After you’ve read the descriptions, download our printable Transition Smoothers worksheet for exercises designed specifically for your Reluctant Adapter tendency.


You-First Adapter
You’re game for a fresh idea or plan — as long as someone else figures out how it’s going to work. While tagging along has its perks, the flipside is that you sell yourself and your dreams short. Because the cost of always letting others forge the way is that your own sense of adventure gets rusty.

You need to believe that you’re equal to the challenge. By holding yourself back from making any wrong calls, you don’t leave yourself room to make right ones. Imagine how you’d deal with past and present change scenarios to work through your fear of doing it wrong.

Smooth the transition with a little role-play. Get the exercise. 

Black-and-White Adapter
You favor a no-nonsense approach and relish knowing how things are done. When change arises, you either deal with it or you don’t. In your mind, if the change isn’t immediately beneficial, there’s got to be something wrong with the set-up. And, in that case, you’ll have nothing to do with it. But that leaves you holding the flag for the old way when everyone else has moved on.

You need to believe in your ability to learn new tricks. It’s scary when it feels like control is slipping out of your fingers, whether you’ve co-signed on the changing reality or not. This is where your super-methodical mind can really help out. If you unpack the change into different categories, it minimizes the overall scariness and makes it more do-able.

Smooth the transition by filling in the unknowns. Get the exercise.

Self-Protective Adapter
For you, nothing beats the thrill of a system humming along just right. But any sign of disruption can sound a five-alarm bell in your head, and suddenly, you can’t think straight. All you see is what you stand to lose. And this amped-up anxiety prevents you from considering what there is to gain.

You need to believe that there’s a way to succeed. Your negative thinking is at risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, so turn the tables by taking stock of the positive. To keep pace, life requires trade-offs.

Smooth the transition by zooming out for a balanced perspective. Get the exercise.

Resentful Adapter
Your strong sense of loyalty is much admired, but when change bursts upon you without your say-so, you feel a little threatened. The change itself can rile your resistance, or it may be the way it was presented; whichever reason, you feel backed into a corner, fighting the change and the forces behind it. In the heat of your frustration, you risk cutting off your nose to spite your face.

You need to believe that you’re not diminished by someone else’s good ideas. You’re afraid that accepting the new set-up without registering your opinion means losing face. Set your pride aside to join forces in adjusting to the change. You might find that it’s not as bad as you thought — and that keeping an open mind makes the transition easier.

Smooth the transition by identifying what’s really bothering you. Get the exercise. 


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