It’s been said that the only constant is change. While many people would like things to stay just the way they are, that doesn’t happen. Things change.
Some changes we initiate and are even excited about. Other changes are thrust upon us.
Changes may be desirable or undesirable. All change is a step into the unknown.
Changes can come from many different sources:
- Phases of our business
- What were once tried and true practices
- Significant personal event or calamity
Regardless of if we choose a change for ourselves, or have it imposed on us, change demands that we leave what we know and move toward what is not yet clearly defined. For this reason, change offers us amazing opportunities for personal and professional growth—but we often miss those opportunities. Here are just a few reasons why:
- We may buck or balk at the change. When we actively resist change that is unavoidable, we’re prone to fight, kick, grumble, and complain about it. If the change is truly inevitable, then this negative response only serves to prolong our misery and hinder growth. This response also makes us difficult to live with!
- We may blame others for the change. If what we perceive to be a negative change is forced upon us, it’s easy to resent those who imposed the change. Our resentment can evolve into anger, holding grudges, and broken relationships. Our dark responses place us in a thick, gloomy smog that prevents us from seeing or dealing with the situation clearly.
- We may retreat from the change. We do this by passively avoiding the change, trying to postpone it, or deny its reality. This approach transports us into a fantasy world of our own creation where no real growth or forward movement can occur.
How do we respond to change in a healthy manner?
5 strategies for change
- Accept the change and step into it with childlike wonder. Have you ever noticed that when Americans travel abroad, there are really only two major types of tourists? On the one hand are tourists who want to experience their host country by retaining as much of America as possible. They eat at McDonald’s, they get coffee at Starbucks, they stay at places where everyone speaks English, and so on. Frankly, I’m not sure why they even bothered traveling abroad, when they could experience the same thing in a burrow of Detroit, New York, or Los Angeles.
The second kind of tourist studies the language of the host country before departing. They seek to stay in out-of-the-way places unfrequented by tourists. They wander around with childlike wonder attempting to soak up as much of the culture, its people, and its beauty as possible. I think you get the picture.
When change is thrust upon us, we need to approach it like that second tourist.
But you may object, “The tourist chooses to travel to a foreign land. I didn’t choose this change!” This leads us to the second strategy.
- Anticipate change. Okay, we may not have chosen a particular change, but often we can anticipate it and prepare ourselves for it. We already know that change is inevitable, so look around you. What changes do you see coming down the pike? In view of those changes, ask yourself:
- What new skills will I need in order to embrace this change?
- What can I learn from this change, personally and professionally?
- How can I leverage this change for good in my life, my business, and the lives of those I love?
- Assess the change. If the change appears to be unpleasant or unwanted, discover whether it’s possible to reject or negotiate some aspects of the change. Then, embrace what you cannot alter and make the best of it. Stephen Covey lists “Fear of change and postponing improvement” as one of the seven habits of ineffective people.
- Allow time to grieve. While this may seem overstated, some changes warrant a time of grief. For instance, when we send a child off to college, we’re happy for them and their new experience, but we grieve their departure. We may also grieve losing a long-time client to a competitor. Or we may simply struggle with having to leave an old system or process behind. If that’s the case, have a funeral for it. Celebrate its past service, but put it to rest. Doing so will help you move on and embrace the new change.
- Advance as a change-agent. Whenever possible, initiate change instead of having it imposed on you. This puts you in charge. Constantly watch for ways to improve what you’re doing. Are you currently using two apps that could be replaced with one? You know that weekly or monthly task that takes so much time? How can you complete it more quickly and still do it well? When you hear yourself complaining about the way something works, why not improve it? Maybe there’s a routine task that you hate. Find someone else to do it!
Let’s face it, things would get pretty boring without change! Don’t let change get you down. Promote it, embrace it and grow by it.