The 3 Ways People React to Change


I can still remember sitting around the dinner table at 15, hearing my mother say, “What do you think about moving?” as she casually passed me the mashed potatoes.

What do I think? I think it’s a horrible, terrible, unbearable idea. I love this house, my friends, my school, and the thought of moving again just three years after the last time makes me want to burst into tears! “Because we’ve bought a new house and will be relocating in a couple of weeks!” she continued, dribbling gravy over her plate.

Even as adults, most of us don’t choose change. We get comfortable with our routines, our lives, our friends, our cocktail of choice, even our routes to work, and any detour can be a source of frustration, fear and stress—we prefer the security of what we know. But change is unavoidable, and how we react to it determines the outcome, good or bad.

For example, let’s say you have a 30-year-old shake shingle roof on your home, and during a home inspection you are told your roof has a slim to none chance of holding up through the winter rain. (Why am I using this example? Because I just wrote a big fat check to the roofing company!) What would you do?

There are usually three ways that people react to change:

• Be non-active.

These are the type of homeowners who find out they have a leaky roof but just sit back, singing the song, “It Never Rains in Southern California,” hoping that will make it so. Basically, they resist the change and choose to remain in denial. If I don’t address the issue, it’s not really there. It won’t happen to me, so I’m just going to continue to go about my business. Or they cop an attitude and say, It’s not fair. Why me? Either way, they don’t move forward and stay stuck. They are choosing the pay later versus now, approach—and pay they will.

• Be reactive.

The homeowner frantically starts calling the local roofers and feels the pressure to make a fast decision. They don’t have all the necessary facts but make a decision anyway to eliminate their immediate stress and worry. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. It’s the individual who finds out they may lose their job, freaks out, visits 30 placement agencies, and the following Monday they have a new job—but not really one that fits their skill set or talent.

• Be proactive and positive.

A few months back, the homeowners accepted how old the original roof was and started to do their homework. They asked all their friends and neighbors for recommendations, did research on the Internet about roof materials during their spare time and started interviewing roofers suggested by others. They prepared a budget and started saving for the new roof, which is scheduled to be put on before the rainy season begins. They put their focus on what they could do, focused on the positive outcomes and took action.

Obviously, the ideal way to deal with change is to be is proactive because you feel more in control. And the more we feel we have control over the situation, the less stress and frustration we feel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a roof, a divorce, a career restructuring or a diet—when we take charge of change, the journey feels more comfortable and ends up more rewarding.

Easy to say, but how do you choose to be proactive when it’s so easy to freak out or hide under the covers?

• Acknowledge that change is part of life. Nothing would exist without change. It’s inevitable. We wouldn’t even be born if our parents hadn’t changed (or grown up).

• Accept your emotions. Tell the truth on yourself to allow all your feelings. Cry the crocodile tears and release the energy as it comes up. Be patient, as it takes time to sort through all your emotions and adjust to change. Too often we skip over this step, shove our emotions down and that ends up slowing us down.

• Reframe the situation to see the positive. After I processed my sadness about having to relocate, I started to dream about the possibilities ahead. I could meet exciting new people, have updated décor in my bedroom and no one would know about that stupid thing I did in the 4th grade!

• Action is required because decisions, not conditions, determine your path. By deciding to move forward and trust the process, we put our focus on what is available. I took steps to learn all I could about the neighborhood, activities and school. By taking positive action, I was able to let go of my fears and move forward believing that everything will work out for the best.

And since change is constant, I recently had the opportunity to explore the steps once more when my husband and I decided to divorce. I chose to be proactive, cry my river of tears, focus on the positive benefits that come from speaking the truth and took the steps to move forward trusting that all our lives will eventually change for the better. And they have. It required I move again, but today, my world is spinning with wonderful possibilities.

Remember, every pot needs to be replanted now and again if it’s going to grow. Embrace change and continue to become the person you were always meant to be.

Next time you want to avoid change, ask what it’s costing you. Find out what 7 parts of your life suffer when you fail to change.

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Colette Carlson is a human behavior expert and keynote speaker who delivers funny and thought-provoking seminars to audiences everywhere. Learn more about Colette at


  1. Chase Clark on September 19, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Have to agree on this
    Change is going to happen seeing this in my life of well a long time .
    I have done the tears , the why me and prayed. Now I am going through another change . this has been very encouraging thanks.

  2. Иван Савотин on February 13, 2021 at 3:52 am

    First of all, I want to say that I absolutely agree with the content of this article. I find in it many things that can help me in life. This division into three types of people is just brilliant. After all, this is how it happens in life, someone accepts changes, adjusts to them, and someone avoids them and complains about the injustice of life. I was on two sides of the barracks. When I was 12 years old, I had to move to another city. I resisted it in every possible way, but in the end everything was for the best. I found myself in a good environment, quickly adapted, made many new friends and my life became much better. Now, as an adult, I try to accept all the changes taking place in my life and not be afraid of them. This article is a reminder that life is full of change. You need to learn to welcome them. See positive moments in changes and always act, do not stand still.

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