Yes, you have to know how to deal with the frequent visitors known as adversity, self-doubt, and competition. But there’s one visitor that’s more of a constant companion, one whose omnipresence never really changes– change.
Follow these three simple steps to flourish, not flounder, in the face of change.
Step 1: Understand what change changes when you don’t manage it.
Yes, you know all the platitudes about how the only thing that’s constant is change. So then why do so many people still allow change to continually throw their life into turmoil–to change their outlook on work and life?
Yes, it can be that dramatic because change is ever-present.
I was recently keynoting for a big company on the topic of flourishing in the face of change when I was struck by a conversation I had with an attendee afterward. She told me her role, and her company, was going through what felt like an unending amount of change. She confessed that the constant exposure to change was having a real impact on how she felt about her job, and how she felt in general.
I’ve seen this over and over, that an inability to navigate change effectively is like not knowing how to communicate effectively–the need for it is always there and the inability to excel at it hampers us in more ways than we can imagine. To help, let’s break things down so that we can build you back up if you have a hard time with change.
Step 2: Understand why we struggle with change.
First and foremost, we like that which has been around a while, the familiar. Change exposes us to the unfamiliar. Interestingly, we don’t feel this way about change associated with technology though. We’ll wait in line for three hours for the latest iphone because we’re convinced that the latest technology will make our life better. But when it comes to change in general, we assume the opposite.
So what if you thought of change as a personal software upgrade? Something to download to get you to You 2.0?
Speaking of the unfamiliar, change also breeds uncertainty, and many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Here’s a test–two scenarios:
Scenario one – You have to be on time for a big meeting with the boss at 9AM. You’re stuck in traffic, and it’s 50/50 if you’re going to be on time or not. You’re perspiring at the brow. Your heart rate has increased. Not good.
Scenario two – Same meeting, same traffic. But this time you’re running even more behind schedule. You glance down at your watch and see that’s it’s now physically impossible to make that meeting on time. You know for certain you won’t make it. So you resign to being late, and while it doesn’t feel great, you’re heart rate slows down a notch and you shift gears to mentally prepare excuses for why you’re late.
We actually prefer the second scenario, a known horrible outcome, because we hate uncertainty so much.
Here’s an acronym to help you the next time you’re facing uncertainty: OAR
- Observe the uncertainty and don’t Overreact to it.
- Accept uncertainty’s presence, don’t Attempt to fix it (with misinformation and assumptions).
- Realize that impermanence is inevitable, Revel in the changes it brings (it unlocks creativity, develops our resilience, has us prepared for multiple outcomes).
We also struggle with change because we fear losing that which is associated with change. I was at a conference and heard a psychologist talking about the fact that research shows gamblers at a horse track who are having a money-losing day are actually the most likely people to bet on a long-shot horse, at terrible odds, on the last race of day. They’re faced with a realization of loss and end up making a bet they’d never thought they’d make when they walked in that day–all because of our intense aversion to loss.
The key is to not catastrophize. Be honest about what you’re really going to lose with the change. For example, yes, you’re losing that boss you loved working for with the new company reorganization, but are you certain that you won’t be able to have that kind of relationship with future bosses?
Step 3: Make the “Change Choice.”
When faced with change you can choose to see change as happening to you or for you. You can choose to see it as a series of painful moments to endure or a pivotal moment to use as a jumping off point to change your trajectory professionally and personally, to be seen as someone excellent at shaping and leading change.
You can be a change champion in three steps. Not only will you make things easier on yourself, you’ll see a change in your career prospects, too.