We have all heard the adage ‘The only constant is change’. Yes…how true this is. Change and progress are inevitable. They are vital. They are necessary. Many individuals and organizations with whom I work resist change. Changes can be perceived as disruptive and a ‘hassle’ and frankly…scary. Yet, I for one, believe ALL things in our lives happen for a reason…and typically FOR us not TO us.
So, when I am personally (or clients of mine are) facing change, which was not expected or even wanted, what are a few things we can do to support a positive response to that change?
There is always something we can learn (and teach) from our life experiences – change experiences being integral to most life experiences.
For example, I have many clients who are facing being ‘retired’ from their jobs unexpectedly, or they have been passed over for a promotion they wanted, or they have been ‘reassigned’ to a job/position they don’t want. ALL these are unexpected changes. These experiences surface all sorts of reactions and emotions. Fear. Rejection. Hurt. Disappointment. Lack of self-confidence. Unsettling ambiguity. The list is long. So what can we do?
We need to CHANGE the way we are looking at the experience…aka: CHANGE THE FRAME.
For example, when my clients are being faced with a change in their job, position, etc. I encourage them to CHANGE the way they are looking at it. I encourage them to realize and embrace that we are NOT defined by the job or position we hold. Often we get completely absorbed in our job or company. In fact, I had one individual recently share with me that their identity was indeed the company for which they worked. I ‘get’ this concept (and lived it at one time in my career), and in fact I wrote a story about a person in Seat 5E who shared the same dilemma. This story has become one of the most popular in my first book “Is This Seat Taken?” as so many of us can relate to it. When we leave one fabulous successful stint in a company, we wonder if we will ever have that again. We wonder if we will ever be able to recreate that level of success again. Yet, what would happen, for example, if we STOPPED comparing this new chapter with the old chapter – good or bad?! We know intellectually, that there really are no comparisons, thankfully. We are a compilation of all our experiences, and this new chapter will be a completely new experience in many ways. WOW – how liberating it can be when we allow ourselves to embrace this concept and this new way of looking at the OPPORTUNITY of change.
What would happen if we embraced PROGRESS not PERFECTION as it pertains to our career progression, our life’s professional journey and all the changes with which we are faced? My thought and suggestion is to keep forward momentum. Keep exploring. Stay open. Be receptive to even what may appear to be an opportunity which is out of your wheel house or may even be an approach with which you disagree. “Lean In” to quote Sheryl Sanberg. Our intuition and inner voice does not lie. Ever. So listen to it. Change can in fact be an amazingly liberating experience IF we change the frame on how we welcome and grow into the change.
And remember: nothing is permanent. Many of us may be facing hard, relatively large, changes in our personal and professional lives. Let’s be real, there are no pat answers on how to embrace change – and our approach will differ for each one of us. Yet, I want to offer one simple dose of reality and a formula which has benefited me over the years:
D x V x F > R
This is one of the simplest, yet most powerful change models I have ever used. (This is Beckhard’s Change Equation, attributed to change/leadership guru Richard Beckhard). It is simply this -Change (and the healthy embrace of change) will only happen when:
(D) Dissatisfaction with the status quo coupled with our (V) Vision of what is possible (and this must be more than just the absence of pain in the current situation) coupled with our (F) First Steps in the direction of that Vision is GREATER THAN our (R) Resistance to Change, and the inertia to stay where we are.
So, when things get bad enough, or are simply not as effective as they could be OR a decision (and a CHANGE) has been made and thrust upon us – then we have to identify the overall direction of where we want to go and take that first step. THEN, we are on our way to embracing change. If any of these components are missing, not clear, or compelling, then we will stay where we are – stuck! We resist the change. We fight the change. We are fighting the flow – and we all know how hard it is to swim upstream.
I want to close with wisdom from my parents. Our ABC’s matter. I was reared with this non-negotiable directive from my parents, that we control no one but ourselves. AND, we only have real control over 3 things: Our Attitudes, Our Behaviors, and Our Choices. We do not control anyone else’s (darn it!); yet, we can adjust OUR ABC’s to embrace what life presents to us. We play the hand we have been dealt – and yes, we can ‘win the game’ with a pair of deuces, if that is all we have. We, individually and collectively, have to make the decision to embrace the change. This may be simply altering the nature of our current situation through attitude, approach, and simply changing the frame of how we view our current role.
Bottom line: embracing change is up to us any way you slice it.
And there is OPPORTUNITY with CHANGE.