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What You Can Learn When You Stop Fearing Change


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis
Redbook Magazine Logo
From layoffs to security threats, we live in a crazy and scary world. You could just pray for calmer times — or learn to love the occasionally wild ride.

Life, as you may have noticed, is one great big roller-coaster ride. From job changes (planned or not) to turn-your-world-upside-down milestones like marriage and motherhood, there's no end to the twists and turns you face through the years. And these days, what with headlines constantly reminding you about the shaky economy or latest terrorist threat, that ride through life can seem scarier than ever.

But consider this: Maybe feeling a little unsteady is actually a good thing. "We're brought up to believe that we should do everything we can to live tidy, predictable lives: Map out what you want! Have a five-year plan!" says life coach Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things. "But the truth is that you miss some of the best parts of life by living like that." In fact, notes Blanke, it's the in-between, uncertain times, the moments when you're tempted to just pull the covers over your head, that can teach you the most about yourself and help you grow — if you let them. Below, Blanke takes you through four scenarios that can rock your world in the best way possible.

You're shaken up by a major life change, like getting married or becoming a parent.

Big milestones aren't just about taking the next step (and taking lots of photos to mark the occasion!); they can also challenge your long-held beliefs about who you are. "The thing about getting married or having a baby is that it's not like putting a new lamp in the living room — it changes everything," says Blanke. As scary as it is to look at your life and realize that it bears almost no resemblance to your former existence, the best thing you can do is stop fighting those uneasy feelings. "I like to say that you should 'lean into' the change," says Blanke. "Instead of worrying, Who am I now? think of it as an opportunity to wonder, Who could I becomenow?"

One way to turn an identity crisis into an exciting metamorphosis is to develop a student mentality — meaning, take time to notice what you're learning about yourself in your new life. Ask, What am I discovering about myself now that I never would have otherwise? Maybe living with a spouse is showing you how to be more flexible. Perhaps caring for a colicky newborn is teaching you patience. Or maybe you know you're changing, but you have no idea how — and that's okay too. Going through an identity shift is huge, and it shouldn't feel as easy as getting used to a new haircut.

The point is, transitions are tough, but it's easier to uncover the lessons they have to offer if you stop thinking that you should know how to play your role from the start. Do your best to go with the flow, and in time, your new life will become second nature. As Blanke points out, "Remember what Charles Darwin said: It's not the strongest or the smartest of the species that survives, but the ones who can best adapt to change!"

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