THE BLOG
09/12/2012 11:00 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2012

Coping With Change

Years from now, what might people say about the twenty-teens?

Was it the Big Bang of cyber space, the Plastic Himalayas of Debt, an era of cutbacks and job loss, of change for the worse?

Certainly, we live in mercury transition. We can't wait to get news from television or papers anymore, but Twitter, Facebook and iPhone. Your new computer and even your new job may be obsolete before you've worn them in.

Little wonder many people are defensive and must be dragged into change. In status quo, there is comfort, and seemingly some control. If you want to make enemies, change something. "Change is growth, and growth is painful," Albert Einstein once said.

But there is potential for good, as well. Life is an inevitable, continuing series of changes. . .but growth is optional. Change is often cyclical, but growth can take roots and endure. We'll all go grey, but will we become wise? It is the successful people who recognize the opportunity in change and use it to learn and grow.

Facing grim realities of 2012 offers opportunity to inventory our jobs, our lifestyles, our attitudes. Indeed, to land on our feet, we should focus not so much on the changing winds of society or the workforce, but changes in ourselves.

First things first. We need to face the reality of economic change and decide whether we are going to complain or react positively. Life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you react, and never expect a lot from companies, even good companies. If you have anger or fear, put that energy into your work, or to re-defining yourself. See yourself as a survivor.

Next, identify the things you have some influence over, and act on those. For the rest, we must learn to compromise and adapt while taking stock of the resources we have - finances, skills, experience, networks, and perhaps even a debt counselor. Count the things you have, not the things you don't.

Upgrade your skills. Attend workshops. Learn more about the changes in your company and be flexible. Network with others. Seek support from family and friends, and return the favor. In tough times, people will come to one another's aide.

In a recession, it's difficult for us to accept less than we had; in salary or position, or even giving up our weekly night at the movies.

Yet, humility is soup for the soul, and inspiring. I learned that recently in the middle of the night, worrying about money, when a car pulled up and dropped a newspaper at my door. Good God, it was my old friend, Mark. Didn't he used to be circulation manager for that newspaper? Didn't he used to be executive-director of an agency?

Yes, and now, after being given a pink slip, he was helping his kids through school by delivering papers at 5 a.m. If Mark can do it, I can work harder while learning to accept less pay, as I am in the writing field.

If we have problems coping, often one obstacle is us; we may be stubborn. We want others to change, but do we? How often do you try new things, or take risks? Nothing is more common than people with talent who don't become successful. When you try to improve your circumstances, but don't improve yourself, you don't get very far.

Contrary to what many believe, this era is not necessarily a dead end but a crossroads, a time we can re-assess things like diet, exercise, spending, our relationships and our lifestyle, as well as our thinking.

Maybe we're too selfish, or lazy. Maybe we should volunteer and help others.

Fear of change is separate from change itself, but just as powerful. It's a natural fear and in tough times, it keeps us from taking unnecessary risks.

Establish what scares you about change - is it loss of income or responsibility, loss of status, fear of the unknown or fear of losing control?

Most fears never come true - the average person has 44,000 worries a day and studies show that only 8 per cent are about things we have some control over. In other words, put change into perspective.

Examine your view of the world. Have you ever really shifted one of your major mindsets or opinions? Some people go their whole lives absorbed in only one viewpoint, whether it is politics, business, religion, culture and race - without considering other ways of thinking. That's why there is so much friction in the world.

Maybe we focus too much on the big tickets -- the money, the house, the status. Sometimes going back to the Little Things gives us priceless pleasure - a walk at sunset, gaining the trust of birds in the park to get them to feed them out of your hand.

Nature can help. There are times when we should not push forward, but backward, to embrace the simple, natural ways of living. Nature knows change. With autumn approaching, consider nature's seasons and its renewal of life.

The transition of the twenty-teens gives you a chance to renew the way you were, the way you liked to be before circumstances perhaps made you more negative or cautious. Maybe the Old You was healthier. If so, grow back to your past.

There is hope. As a race, we have adapted to various climates and economies, slowly but surely. We've even established bases in Antarctica! And we've shown in the past that we can grow business again from scorched earth of an economic meltdown. It's taken too long, but didn't we once treat women, children and minorities as second-class citizens?

As individuals, we need not wait so long to evolve professionally, socially and spiritually - if we ride the winds of change to a higher plane.

Michael Clarkson is a psychology author and speaks professionally on fear, stress and coping with change. He can be reached at michael.paul.clarkson@gmail.com.