When was the last time something in your life changed? How about the last time something BIG changed in your life? Was it you who brought the shift? Was it an outside event? Did you enjoy it, or was it hard for you?
In my 30-odd years on this planet, I went through a few changes and transitions. Moving around with my family after my parents separated. Leaving Germany for San Francisco at age 21 in 2006. Marrying my dear life partner in 2008. Transitioning out of my company, Taulia, in 2015, after six years of building a business together with my (still) friends and co-founders. Diving into personal development and starting a project to help people develop their intimate lives in 2016. In 2017 starting Centrifuge — a crypto project fostering decentralization of financial systems together with my friends and previous co-founders. After 12 years of being married now unmarrying my partner and separating our paths again. Somewhere along the whole way embarking on a personal and communal journey of mysticism, spirituality, community building, with old and new friends. Decolonizing our sexuality and relationship models. Moving my life’s focus from San Francisco to Berlin in 2018. Those are some of the more significant changes. Smaller ones happen all the time.
I talked to folks who went through big shifts in their lives. Sometimes to align with “their own path,” sometimes just because life happens or opportunities presented themselves. I am thankful for the stories and lessons they shared with me; illuminating the different approaches to change they took. Families were created — or separated. Dreams were shared. Shared dreams shattered, and something else emerged. Careers changed radically. Physical or mental health became a priority and led to doing things dramatically different. Societal norms being bent or re-defined for oneself.
The thing with change is — it is inevitable. It is happening. ALL. THE. TIME. You can try to look away. Put the fingers in your ears and yell, “NOT LISTENING!”. Throw a tantrum. Cry. Laugh. Try to stop it. It doesn’t matter. The universe doesn’t care and simply moves on with its thing. And that thing is: move and change constantly. And you’re in it. You are part of it if you want to or not.
Through the conversations and my own experiences, I encountered three primary ways of how people deal with change:
1. Not “Deal With Change”
Not dealing with change can be in two ways. Either by denying that it happens or actively fight the ever-shifting reality. There are nuances here, but basically, they work against any changes that occur, capitulate helplessly, or shut themselves off. I believe this approach to change is causing more problems than good in the long run as it causes fear, anxiety, worry, or anger more often than not.
2. Changing With a Slow Burn
Deliberately embrace or initiate change one step at a time. Always swap out parts as new ones appear. Swim in the stream of life as things happen. Sometimes towards a mid- or long-term goal. A slow burn means consciously working with the shifts that occur. The slow burn can be more comfortable for one’s surroundings. One can bite off digestible chunks at a time. It is a piece-by-piece approach. However, it can mislead one into thinking that one is working with the changes while, in reality, one is stalling or bypassing what is happening. One might be pleasing the ego, tricking oneself into believing that one “took the step” and jumped. In reality, still sitting around and talking about the jump. It can turn into “dealing with change by talking about it” — but then not dealing with it.
3. Change Radically
This is the “nuclear option.” Inspect the current state of life or a situation and then obliterating it. Making space for the new. Radical change can lead to burning bridges. Potentially surprising and hurting people or groups one was engaged with. It can be extremely painful and alienating. It can also be extraordinarily liberating and freeing. In either case, it is a jump taken without the possibility to regulate speed. There is no turning back.
What I found is that we all use different ways of changing at different times. Sometimes it is better to slow burn. Sometimes it is better to crash and burn. I believe, sometimes, it is OK to be a bit ignorant and let things unfold for a while before diving back in. Some people are aware of how they embrace change (or not), while others are not thinking about it. Awareness of how we change brings the ability to act. I prefer the ability to act. That’s why I share this post with you :)
I usually bring change with a slow, constant, clear burn. I take a piece of the castle I built myself. Look at it from all sides. Turn it inside out. Then toss it into the fire. Watch it light up the night. Sometimes smiling, dancing, and other times raging or crying. It comes naturally to me this way. I have big respect for the radical change option. I used it a few times — but even then with preparation. I wonder if I go too slow at times. I can not accept the “don’t deal with change” option. It is too painful to try to hold something back that is happening anyway. Moving with the ebbs and flows of life makes my system so much more relaxed and at ease.
For me, an important question emerged through all of this: Why hold back? Why fight change? I mean… seriously… why forcefully create a static structure if everything is moving?! No need to be reckless with change if that’s not one’s style. Sometimes a wrecking ball is needed, though. As said, I like it neat and tidy. Maybe that’ll change too. Perhaps that’s just another story I tell myself, so I don’t have to face the actual next thing that’s coming my way. In any case, change is happening all the time. Trying to avoid or stop it will only work for a short while. So instead I suggest: go with it and integrate the waves as they come. See you on the way!