I am a self-confessed change junkie. I am much happier in the chaos of transition than with the constancy of the status quo. From the color on the walls to something ‘new’ on the grocery store shelf, I crave novelty, diversity, and movement.
Over the years, this trait has become a consistent tool for helping me engage with the world around me. Not surprisingly, the more I leveraged my preference for change, the more it has become a defining element of my life, even part of my identity.
Unfortunately, just because it’s a strength doesn’t mean it’s the best approach in every situation. Like most people, in most circumstances, my selection of coping tools is driven more by what feels comfortable than by situational relevance. In other words, adapting to change is an area where I feel competent and comfortable so it’s more difficult for me to utilize other tools or to navigate situations in which my tools aren’t effective.
In his 1966 book, The Psychology of Science, behavioral scientist Abraham Maslow described this tendency:
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
My affinity for change isn’t inherently good or bad, but context is key; when it comes to coping skills, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Fortunately, there are ways to compensate, and even maximize, your tendency for change.
Here’s a quick Top 5 list to get you started:
- Acknowledge that this tendency exists in all of us and that a fully formed perspective necessitates input from divergent viewpoints.
- Second, take the time to identify your go-to coping tools; it’s common to have some blind spots. An assessment tool like Strengths Finder can be helpful in this process.
- Look for ways to grow your emotional toolbox, but don’t spend all your time focusing on weaknesses; lean into your strengths!
- Surround yourself with people who complement, rather than duplicate your strengths. Be intentional about inviting and appreciating diverse perspectives; healthy debate fosters empathy, intimacy, and understanding, but it won’t thrive without trust.
- Don’t allow your identity to be co-opted by outdated coping skills. We are each more than a collection of skills or characteristics; sometimes we must let go of coping techniques that have outlived their usefulness. It’s not always easy, but it allows us to leverage the fullness of our experience and growth…and it’s a perfect opportunity to unleash your inner change junkie.
Written By: Jill Howgate, LAPC