The only constant thing in our lives is change. However, few people like — much less love — changing. There are many famous quotes about change, all conveying the same general message: that change is inevitable and scary, but good. Any time we make a change in life, whether we initiated that change or it was forced upon us, we have a choice to make: to embrace it, or fight it. But what about the process that’s involved in making that choice? The change process can be extremely difficult so here are some ideas to help you through it.
Change is not only common in our lives, it is an overriding theme in nature. Witness the seasons, tides, sun setting and rising, life cycle of plants, etc. Heck, our own aging process is proof positive of constant change.
But change is not easy to manage. For starters, the hyper pace of life these days doesn’t leave much time for us to process change anymore. However, the biggest factors that make us resist change are self-imposed. We spend a lot of time “thinking” about upcoming or imminent changes, but not actively planning or managing them. We also suffer from complacency as we get caught up in our “same old” routines and structures. We sometimes do this because of the fear of the unknown. Yet other times, we resist change because of a lack of trust or low confidence as to whether we will be able to effectively manage the change.
I have had several major transitions so far in my life. One was my career transition of leaving the practice of law to become an entrepreneur. I’ve also moved 4 times in the last 15 years. And I am about to embark on yet another major change as my husband and I relocate clear across the country from New York to California, which will include the expansion of my business and furthering of his education and career. Thinking back to all of the major transitions I have gone through, for each one, I had mixed feelings, which can be characterized as bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited about what was on the horizon and eager to explore the new adventure, but on the other hand, I was fearful and anxious about walking away from what I was leaving.
Invariably, with every change or transition, huge opportunities, successes and unexpected blessings awaited me as soon as I embraced the change. The process that I experienced while deciding to embrace the change is a psychological one and is the typical path that people take when embarking on a change of any kind. You’ve probably heard of the stages of grief that are experienced when we suffer the loss of a loved one. And while that is an extreme example of change, it does serve as a powerful lesson for dealing with change of all kinds.
First, you experience shock, accompanied by denial. This is when you feel like a victim, experience change as something happening to you and out of your control. Second, you experience fear; most people internalize this emotion. Generally, this stage is when a person will be withdrawn and quiet as they go through the fear of the unknown in their mind. In the next stage, people often externalize their emotions and express anger and frustration, accompanied by strong resistance and bargaining. The last stage is acceptance. Ah… this is when you accept the change and are at peace with it. This is also when good change managers move into action mode.
Take a step back and scrutinize your relationship to change. Here are some tips to help guide you.
Plan for the Change
Preparing and planning for change in a proactive manner is the most critical step to change management. Focus on what you are doing in an honest manner. Each person’s specific change management issues are unique. Take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses, personality style, and preferences.
Change often starts with a new beginning, but it also includes an ending – with letting go of old attitudes and behaviors. Transition is a difficult process for anyone, but some people deal with it better than others. Focus on what you could gain, instead of what you could lose. Think of the transition as running towards something (the new change) as opposed to running away from something (the thing you are leaving behind or changing from). Rewards may await you on the other side.
Make room for change in your work and life. Don’t hold on so tightly to what is safe that you strangle your openness and willingness to change. Stop holding onto the illusion that just because something is familiar, it is good. Indeed, change could lead to something better!
Are you one step ahead of change, or at least keeping up with it? Remember, change is inevitable. You may as well invite it in for a visit and make friends with it!