I opened up my email the other day, and saw some big news. Our department chair announced she was retiring, and she was doing it soon—her last day would be in one month. We were getting a new interim chair, and conducting a search for a new permanent chair.
My immediate response was to feel anxious. This was the department chair who had hired me, and she had been the chair for the entire time I had been a professor. I had developed a good working relationship with her. I knew her style, and I knew what to expect. I was comfortable with her.
Now, there were a lot of unknowns. What would the new chair be like? Would they change a lot of things, or keep things mostly the same? Would I be able to develop a good working relationship with the new chair? I didn’t know.
Change is Hard
Human beings are creatures of habit, so any type of change is hard. I remember when I was learning about psychology in my undergrad, there was a famous scale that measured stressful life events. Even positive changes like getting married or starting a new job created a large amount of stress. It doesn’t matter if the change is ultimately a good thing—it’s still hard.
Worst Case Scenarios
Also, having a lot of unknowns can bring up anxiety and fear. We don’t know what will happen in the future—what if something bad happens? If we struggle with anxiety, our mind can fill in the unknowns with the worst possible scenarios. We might feel terrible, even though nothing bad has actually happened yet.
Where is the Opportunity?
I’d like to encourage us to think about change a different way: Where is the opportunity for you in the change? When things stay the same, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for growth. You’re just maintaining the status quo. But when things change, there is opportunity for something different to happen. You might be able to take a step forward in your life, whatever that means for you. Sure, something bad might happen, but something good might happen also. If you can be on the lookout for the positive opportunity in your change, you will be more likely to see it and step into it.
What is one thing that is changing for you right now in your life? What are your anxieties and fears about the change? On the flip side, can you think of at least one opportunity that might be there for you in the change?