-Dr. Patricia Pence-
Last school year I launched a radical career shift to teach at a state university. My tenure as a seasoned senior nurse educator at a community college had reached a plateau, leaving me wondering whether it was time for me to leave or stay. After evaluating the pros and cons of staying, I realized it was time to leave.
Have you considered whether you are a “leaver” or a “stayer”?
Starting a radical change can be an overpowering challenge. My job search led me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I was anxious about the uncertainty of whether I would find a new job while excited and hopeful about a fresh opportunity. The up and down emotional response can impair decision-making and your ability to teach at your present position.
Despite being motivated to seek a new job, I was stressed and apprehensive about how this process would unfold. After mulling around whether to leave or stay, and fearing the reactions from others, I realized my reaction was a normal emotional response to change.
According to Dr. Britt Andreatta, an internationally recognized author, thought leader, and consultant on leadership for organizations, our brains are wired to resist change. In her book, “Wired to resist: The brain science of why change fails and a new model for driving success”, she illustrates and explains the neuroscience of resistance to change. Her book is based on academic and organizational studies and interviews with leaders from various organizations.
Dr. Andreatta wrote, we all experience change in our lives. Change is constant, unsettling, disruptive, and difficult. Our brain is “wired” to detect any change, such as when we change jobs and adjust to a new workplace. Change stimulates a full range of emotions, but the key emotions highlighted in Dr. Andreatta’s change model are fear, fatigue, and failure.
It was no surprise that my response to change during my job search was fear. Change activates the amygdala, our survival or “fight-or-flight” control center. Any change will start a series of chemical responses, mainly the release of hormones, adrenalin and cortisol, to help increase our chance of survival. Have you ever noticed your heart rate racing at the thought of a major change in your life? An increased heart rate is one response by the amygdala. Dr. Andreatta describes the amygdala as “freaking out” during change.
My amygdala was “freaking out” about:
Dr. Andreatta says our brain responds to the amount of change or “change load”. The more change taking place in your life, the more that change may lead to physical and mental fatigue. Change fatigue may manifest with symptoms of disengagement, exhaustion, absenteeism, confusion, conflict, and cynicism.
In retrospect, between my home and work life, my change load last year had “maxed out”. Besides applying and interviewing for a new position, I was helping my mother, assisting a teacher flip a course, and completing the flipped certification and international faculty member search. I felt de-energized, had difficulty making decisions, and had no time for exercise.
Change and taking a risk, such as leaving a job for another, increases the chance for failure. Change stimulates the habenula, an area deep within the center of our brain, to release or suppress the chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. The habenula releases these chemicals when we are successful and rewards us with “feel good” emotions. When we fail, the habenula suppresses the flow of these chemicals, setting up “feel bad” emotions and impairing our decision-making. Dr. Andreatta equates the habenula’s message during change as, “I can’t mess up”.
Potential failures and opportunities to “mess up” with a future job change preoccupied my mind:
To turn this topsy-turvy roller coaster ride of emotions into a positive experience, I tried these six strategies to manage my emotions. You might consider these strategies when seeking a new job or dealing with any change.
Be prepared to feel mixed emotions as you set out to find a new job. FLGI is here to support you during your job search and transition. Share your experience in a support group. You might help someone else successfully navigate a job transition!
Andreatta, B. (2017). Wired to resist: The brain science of why change fails and a new model for driving success. Santa Barbara, CA: 7th Mind Publishing.
Leone, T. (2016). How to manage your nerves during transitions. TEACHFORAMERICA. Retrieved at https://www.teachforamerica.org on June 16, 2018.