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10 Ways to Embrace Change

Blindsided by a job loss, the author learned that the unfamiliar isn’t to be feared: It can be a chance to turn your life around.

By Katherine Russell Rich
Woman having coffeeJohn Kernick


4. Silence your inner know-it-all, too. When I interviewed the eminent linguist Alton Becker, I asked what makes someone good at languages. It helps not to be too smart, he said, explaining, “Smart people don’t like having their minds changed, and to learn a language, you have to change your mind.” If you’re so smart that you can’t rethink your positions, all your IQ points won’t do you much good when your life is turned upside down. Becker’s advice applies across the board.

5. Seek out new perspectives. Zen practitioners cultivate the “don’t know” mind; they work to assume they don’t know anything and in that way see the world fresh. This is a great way to approach change―as an opportunity to start anew, to consider all possibilities. Ask naive, wide-eyed questions of anyone who is doing anything you might be interested in trying. Listen seriously to arguments you might once have dismissed.

6. Try something new and slightly scary. Why? Because now is the time to explore what it is that you really like. Catch yourself off-guard and see what happens. At a time when I was feeling most stuck, I spontaneously volunteered to get up onstage at an open-mic storytelling evening in New York City. The experience was elating and terrifying and showed me that I wanted to lead a more creative life.

7. Be skeptical of common wisdom. It’s dangerous to live in the aggregate, especially when you’re trying to figure out your next move. One year, everyone knows you need an M.B.A. to succeed at anything. The next, they’re saying that there are no jobs out there anyway, so don’t even try. In my case, everyone but I knew that you can’t learn a language at age 43. But since no one alerted me to that fact, that’s what I set my sights on. 
 
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