Some people, particularly those unhappy with their current circumstances, welcome change. Whether the change is self-directed or forced upon them, they see it as an opportunity to pursue another pathway. But for many of us, change is not welcomed with such opened arms.
I stumbled across the new term ‘FOTU’ recently, and it quite aptly describes a phenomenon I have been noticing in recent times in people who have faced changed in the workplace or who are on the cusp of it. Presenting as anxious and worried about the future, the Fear of The Unknown (FOTU) depicts the anxiety of not knowing what is going to happen next and the uncomfortable feelings that go along with it.
Whether it’s a recent job loss, whisper of redundancies, shorter contracts, a dip in sales in business, or unhappiness in a job, the threat of looming change fills many people with dread. Not just because of the practical upheaval it causes when it happens, but the uncertainty that exists on the other side of the change.
In the past our jobs were more fixed, we felt secure, change seemed slower and we didn’t have to update our knowledge and systems every few weeks. We could start a job and expect to be there through most of adulthood or at least until we received a fancy watch.
But the workforce feels different now. It’s more transient, more fluid and almost temporary. We are contractors, freelancers, entrepreneurs or employees with a future that’s always a little blurred. We think we know where we are going, but sometimes the universe (or management) has other plans.
Most of us like certainty and knowing that we can control most aspects of our life. It gives us a routine and it keeps us focused. We can predict what is roughly going to happen in our day and that keeps us calm.
But times are changing, whether we like it or now, so it’s in our best interests to learn how to go along with the ride, even if it's into the unknown. The fear of uncertainty is real, but it doesn’t mean the direction we are heading is a bad one. In fact, in most cases getting a little re-direction can lead us on a better pathway, something that our anxious brain doesn’t explore.
The fear of uncertainty creeps in because our brain predicts the worst-case scenario, and focuses on ways to prepare for it. Thinking about the worst that can happen creates worry, paralysing people going forward. People going through unwanted change, feel out of control and often feel that their only option is waiting for a miracle to occur to help them out of it.
Those who embrace change always fair better, as they have the ability to choose what comes next for them.
We are teaching our kids today using the growth mindset. That they have the capabilities to learn anything they put their mind to. We are teaching them to see challenges that they come across as opportunities, not roadblocks. But us adults need to also be adopting the growth mindset. Taking on the belief that no matter who we are, we can always change. We can change our beliefs, we can change our attitudes, we can change our behaviours and we can change what we know. Even our own intelligence is up for change. Change can be beneficial, and doesn’t need to be feared.
Change may mean learning new skills to overcome our problems, gaining new knowledge to understand the world more accurately, learn to regulate our emotions and also knowing how to respond better when adversity strikes. It might mean teaching yourself how to do it, or it might mean getting help.
Big changes will happen to all of us at some point in our lives.
So if you’re experiencing a little FOTU in regards to your job or career, give yourself the permission to feel the emotions that have come up for you regarding the big change and give yourself a little time. Draw on the people around you for support, and start researching all the different options you have going forward. It’s likely you have more options than you think.
Armed with your new knowledge and backed up with your support, you’ll be better equipped to step into the unknown. You might even find that it’s better than what you know.