Mike Bellah

Change is hard, and it's scary, especially in midlife.






"Getting past the fear of change is the first step in taking the crisis out of midlife." ---Ross Goldstein






"Change is one form of hope: to risk change is to believe in tomorrow."---Linda Ellerbee

Changing with Change

I once heard someone say that the only people who look forward to change are babies with wet diapers. I agree. Change is hard, and it's scary, especially in midlife. As we move into our 40s and 50s it seems that the only certainty is uncertainty. Everything is changing. Everything. Our bodies, jobs, spouses, children, friends, even our interests and abilities are not the same today as they were yesterday.

And so, wrote noted psychologist Carl Jung, "we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning." In other words, we have to adapt to change. We too must change with our changing world. Midlife authority Ross Goldstein sees this as the primary hurdle of midlife. "Getting past the fear of change is the first step in taking the crisis out of midlife," he writes. How can we follow Goldstein's advice? Following are some thoughts that might help.

Change is normal.

If a friend remains expressionless for too long and their eyes are not blinking, you might decide to check their pulse. Change is normal. Only embalmed corpses no longer change. Part of our fear of midlife change is the fear that we are somehow abnormal. From our limited perspective we think that our friends' lives remain stable. Only we seem to be spinning out of control on a fast-changing globe. Relax. Change is not only normal, it is necessary.

Change is necessary.

Biologists call it natural selection. Those organisms that are not able to adapt to change cease to thrive in their environment. Eventually, they die. Similarly, successful midlifers will learn to change with change. The best workers will be those who are willing to learn new skills. The best marriages will be those where both partners grow and expand their horizons, and the best parents, those who are willing to assume a new role with adult children.

Change is good.

Author Gail Sheehy says that midlife change is the only way to let go and move on to a fuller way of living. She says that openness to change recaptures what we lost as children: "the exposure to surprise." According to Sheehy, midlifers willing to risk change will recover a "sense of playfulness and curiosity." Remember the first time you saw a zoo as a young child, or the first time you stood on a sandy beach and viewed the ocean, or the first time you tasted icecream? New experiences are not limited to children, but to those who will become as little children and risk change.

Change is hopeful.

But risk is exactly what we fear in change. In order to change we have to risk uncertainty. We must launch our ships in uncharted territory. We must try things we've never tried before. That's why change requires faith. As journalist Linda Ellerbee writes, "Change is one form of hope: to risk change is to believe in tomorrow."

So change can become our greatest opportunity as midlifers to affirm our belief--in ourselves, in others, in our world, in our God. And when we affirm our faith, our faith affirms us. We experience what at first we could only hope for.

We change, and we are changed, and the result is a richer life.

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