3 Self-Defeating Pitfalls To Avoid When Experiencing Change


Due to the nature of our work as search consultants, every person we talk to is facing change on some level. Our clients are hiring new leaders and experiencing change in their staff and church, and our candidates are looking at new opportunities and potentially facing a change in both job and location.

Even when change is good change, it can take some time to adjust; and often we experience stress, anxiety, and disappointment during that adjustment period, even if only on the subconscious level.  When we feel that anxiety or disappointment, sometimes we second-guess whether the change was a good one, or fall into a self-defeating mind-set.  And when that happens, we stop accepting anything constructive that can come from that change. 

Hopefully knowledge of these pitfalls will help you recognize unhealthy tendencies and provide the context to promote healthy emotional behavior

Here are 3 pitfalls to beware of when going through a change in any area of life:

1) Not going into change with open eyes

In our work at Vanderbloemen, we see just how important it is for people to have completely open eyes about any situation they are entering.  We work to make sure that candidates know everything about a potential new role and all surrounding circumstances and that our clients know everything about a potential candidate. 

If we don’t have open eyes before diving into a change in our life, it’s possible to be blind-sided by unknowns – which makes adjustment even more difficult.  Whenever possible, gather all of the facts before you experience change, and work to have the self-awareness to know how you may react to those facts.

2) Becoming disappointed because of unrealistic expectations

Whether or not you have all of the facts, change is almost always accompanied by expectations. These expectations can inspire us toward our goals or they can cause us to lose sight of reality.  How do we differentiate between healthy and unhealthy expectations?  Merriam-Webster defines disappoint as, “To make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected.”

Based on this definition, disappointment is the gap between our expectations and reality. Regardless if reality is a better or worse situation than our expectations, we can become disappointed just because of the difference.

When gathering facts and preparing yourself for a life change, discipline yourself to develop realistic expectations and be on guard against unrealistic expectations.  Unrealistic expectations will always leave us disappointed, and that disappointment can make us close off to the benefits that can be gained from the life change.

3) Being anxious about the unknown

When facing change, it is easy to become anxious. The amount of times the Bible says to not be anxious or afraid is proof alone of how often our human nature leans toward anxiety and fear. When we are developing our expectations, we often realize that we cannot predict or control every facet of an upcoming change.

There has been so much research and writing about anxiety and its physical and psychological effects on humans and their behavior.  The US National Library of Medicine defines anxiety as “a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential. It is characterized by increased arousal, expectancy, autonomic and neuroendocrine activation, and specific behavior patterns. The function of these changes is to facilitate coping with an adverse or unexpected situation. Pathological anxiety interferes with the ability to cope successfully with life challenges.”

So, although anxiety is a natural adaptive reaction (thus to be expected to some degree), it can actually keep us from adjusting to change healthily.   But how do we keep our anxiety at bay?  Well, Paul had a pretty clear answer to that one:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).

Echoing Paul’s statement, someone once told me when I was going through a big life transition, that they only thing I could do was give it lots of time and prayer.  As we can see by these pitfalls, it’s important to realize that the anxiety and disappointment that accompanies the change is perfectly natural.  It’s key to give yourself grace and time to adjust to the change, try to get all the positive things you can from that change, stay adaptable, and pray a whole lot.

How have you avoided pitfalls when experiencing life-change?