We live and work in a world of exponential change. Sometimes there is so much change going on around me that it reminds me of being sea sick. I just want the boat to stop rocking – even for a minute. This of course is not possible because even if the captain stopped the boat it would continue to rock. The only way to avoid the turbulence would be to abandon the trip. Which doesn’t get you to where you want to go.

We all know we need to be open minded and flexible — that we must be able to adapt to ever changing situations. The question is how?

The three steps below will not stop the boat of change from rocking but they will give you a way to deal with “change sea sickness” – consider them your Dramamine or ear patch for sailing on the sea of change.

Before you read any further, take a minute and get real clear on a change you are having difficulty accepting or something you need to let go of. This will make it easier for you to actually begin applying the strategies right now.

Step 1: Letting Go of the Past

Ask yourself this question – “Is your comfort zone really comfortable?” Be really honest with yourself when you answer this question. Often when faced with a change – especially a change we may not have initiated – like a transfer or job reassignment – we suddenly forget all the things that we dislike about our current situation. We tell ourselves, “It’s really not that bad”. Think about the change situation you are currently facing – the one you identified above and make a list of everything that you dislike or that you would like to be different about your current situation or the situation that you need to let go of. Make as long or a written list as you can but don’t stop until you have listed at least 20 things.

Step 2: Focus Forward

Once you have your list of everything you don’t like about your current situation look out into the future six months to a year and ask yourself two more questions:

  • What is possible with change? What are all of the positive things that could occur as a result of the change? Be creative, think big and explore the possibilities. Make a written list of at least 20 positive possibilities that could occur if you embrace the change you are facing or let go of whatever it is you need to let go of.
  • What is probable without change? This is a question that is particularly important for leaders of organizations and business owners to ask when faced with needing to make changes due to a changing marketplace. I’m sure you can think of several companies – even entire industries – that could have benefited from getting really clear on this. Again make a written list – this time of at least 20 negative things that could happen if change is not embraced. What is the situation likely to be in six months to a year if you (or the company) keeps doing what it is currently doing?

One of the most important roles of a leader is to help people paint these two pictures – one of the positive outcomes that are possible with change to help pull the team into the future and one of the negative views probable without change to motivate team members to let go of the past or current situation and move forward.

Step 3: Switch Your Pictures of the Future

When it comes to creating our pictures of the future (or developing the stories we tell ourselves about the future) we often paint a picture of doom and gloom – full of storm clouds and rain for the future. Then we paint a picture of or create a story about a bright, sunny day where we are lying in a field of green grass for the present.

It is almost impossible to step from a bright sunny picture into a picture full of rain and storms – to step from a bright present into a gloomy future. Think about it. Would you actually choose to leave the park on a bright sunny day to go pick up trash in torrential rain?

Use the information from Steps 1 and 2 above to switch the pictures you have in your mind (or the stories that you are telling yourself) so you are stepping from a stormy picture in the present to a sunny picture in the future. It will make it a whole lot easier to take that first step toward change.

Here’s to many happy days of sailing on the sea of change!