As I further expand my toolkit to help people identify and achieve their career and life goals, I find myself pondering my personal journey with change. I suspect Facebook-level friends see me as an expert in change. According to my very superficial timeline, in the last 10 years or so, I’ve lived in three countries (and about 45 cities), toured around America in an RV, fostered 50+ dogs, been divorced and remarried, and excelled in three very different careers (book publisher, flying trapeze artist, and career coach / resume writer). From a macro view, I would guess I look like a person who’s great with change!
But if you ask me to go to a different restaurant right before we leave the house… Or tell me we’re meeting on Thursday instead of Wednesday… Or make me eat whole wheat bread for breakfast when you know I like ancient grain… you’re in for some painful resistance. For me, abrupt changes just don’t compute! My colleagues, close friends, and family will attest to the fact that, while I’ll drop my life and move to Japan in a heartbeat, I just can’t handle going around the block to the left when I always go right.
A Framework to Get Better at Change
Change is a part of life, especially now. Flights and vacations are being canceled at the last minute. Employees are being furloughed or laid off. Lives are being dramatically altered because of drastic and unexpected income changes. It’s happening to everyone with no regard for the color of your collar. And it could happen to you. So it’s useful to consider how you respond to change now in order to be your best at it when you have to be.
Think about what kind of change challenges you.
Do you have a hard time with big changes, little changes, or both? For me, the big things don’t bother me, but I need to become more agile and open-minded in my response to small changes.
Why does change hurt?
Are you scared? Nervous? Inconvenienced? Annoyed? For me, I feel inconvenienced, offended, provoked, and sometimes hurt when things change at the last minute, even when this is not the intention. In short, I take things too personally. Additionally, it takes me a little time to get used to new ideas before I can dive into them. Having time to adjust to new ideas is essential for me. With abrupt changes, I don’t get that “settle in” period.
What do you know about yourself? How does change make you feel? Why does it make you feel that way? What do you need to feel supported in navigating that change?
Take steps to transform your thought process.
Processes and frameworks are great tools to help us transform our negative habits and reactions into something more positive. I recommend coming up with a few steps that will help you go from your usual state (inconvenienced, annoyed, scared, etc.) to a more productive state (acceptance, comfort, delight, etc.).
For dealing with life’s little changes, I made a list of five things I can do to get better:
- Take a breath — don’t respond right away.
- Ask myself, “What might stop me from agreeing with this change?”
- Ask myself, “What might be a benefit of this change to me and to the other involved parties?”
- Say, “Yes!” if at all possible.
- Commit to enjoying the change and not complaining, no matter what.
If we look at my first example listed above (going to a different restaurant — the horror! 😉 ), the process might look as follows:
- Take a breath (Swallow that “No”!)
- Realize: I don’t want to agree to the change because I feel inconvenienced. I planned to go to the one restaurant. I like it. I know what to expect.
- Realize: It will make my friend feel good if I agree with her. I might find a new restaurant I like (or a new item on the menu). Either way, it will be a change of pace, and I’m being a good friend by not being a pain in the ass about something so stupid.
- Action: Say, “Yes!” Then, have a margarita, order a taco, and comment on how nice the atmosphere is and what a good idea it was to give the place a try.
The above example is useful for changes that you have a say in. For instances when you don’t have a choice (ie. losing your job), you can still create a framework to help you develop a more positive attitude. For example:
- Take a breath.
- Write down the opportunities presented to you by this change.
- Develop an action plan with a timeline to take advantage of those opportunities.
- Spend a few minutes cursing at the moon and then resolve not to ever talk about the negative aspects of the change again.
- When others ask you about it, highlight the opportunities you wrote down.
- Expect to be successful and take action to ensure you’re right.
As I further explore my own journey with change, I’ll be happy to share my discoveries. Leave a comment and let me know what kind of change bothers you and how you’ve improved your process in dealing with it.
Navigating a career change? I’m here to help. Shoot me a note!