It’s normal to be concerned about change. Anytime we are venturing into the unknown, we are going to have some reservations about what it looks like once we get to the other side. By nature, we are creatures of habit and while our well-worn grooves don’t always serve us well— what we know might be preferable to what we don’t!
The problem with resistance to change is that the world is changing around us: We age. Our job situation changes. Our family dynamics change. Our health changes. Our relationships change. Change is central to the universe, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted several hundred years back. The only thing we can count on is that something will change.
As per the Random House Dictionary change is “To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of [something] different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone; i.e. turn it into a situation or condition favourable for attainment of a goal or a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.”
What can we do to make a change into that “favourable condition” we desire? Here are six important concepts to think about when facing an opportunity to change.
You are not your conditions
This may be one of the hardest ideas to grasp, but one of the most freeing, once we do. While conditions around you may be tumultuous and in upheaval, you do not have to ride along with them and let your emotional state take you over in negativity and anxiety. You can watch conditions unfold without diving in headfirst with an emotional response that may not serve you well down the road. Many people happily adopt a ‘victim mode’ when things are not going as they’d like them to.
Drop the idea that you are a helpless, hapless person being thrown this way and that. Instead, mentally imagine you are able to step outside what’s happening around you. Watch what goes on without being drawn into it. Become more objective, more clinical. Gather facts and data.
Understand what you are dealing with before you decide on your best course of action. Once you know what needs to be done, move forward in confidence.
To a ship without a rudder, any port is home
Too many people, if given the chance to change, don’t know where they’d even like to go. What does success really look like to you? What are your top three goals? We are holistic beings, so identify them in a number of areas—family, romantic, career, hobby, financial, spiritual and others. Define what success looks like and then write it down. Use as much detail as possible so you paint a clear picture of what you’d like to happen.
Keep your goals in front of you like a beacon on a lighthouse, guiding you and directing you to where you really want to go.
The inner begets the outer
Much as we are often loath to admit it, our internal state often attracts what we receive externally. We want desperately to fix conditions ‘out there’, when our time and energy is often best spent fixing what’s inside of us. What holds you back? What strengths do you possess? What is your self-talk like day-to-day? When something bad happens, do you respond with “Of course!”, or do you expect good things to come along? Are you confident in your outcomes? Spend more time working on your inner self—thoughts and feelings and reactions, and less time worrying about everyone else and how you need to change them. Treating others in a positive, optimistic fashion can’t help but come back to you in positive and productive ways.
No matter your position, you can effect change
Some of us love to blame the boss, or our company, or our stature in life for our negative conditions. The truth is that every day when we get up, we decide how we will either run or ruin our day. It’s interesting that when we insert the “i”, run becomes ruin!
We can effect change no matter where we stand in life or in our careers. In many companies, the most powerful people are not the ones sitting in the C-level offices; they are the ones who have learned how to communicate effectively, influence others and succeed in whatever they are tasked with doing. Each day, we can decide that we will be a part of a positive impact, and we can take dedicated steps to bring about positive change. Instead of brooding over how powerless we are, it helps to look for those places—however small—where we can make an impact. Don’t wait until you have the money, the power or the position you desire—commit to making the change happen now!
Some take advantage of a ‘bad’ situation, while others wait for a ‘good’ one to come
Nothing is all bad or all good. There are shades to everything. In difficult economic times, for example, some companies hunker down and lay off people but others find their niche and thrive in the very same conditions. Children that grow up in difficult households can turn out different—one might be afraid and under confident her entire life, while another may take those circumstances and use them as a “fire in the belly” to become successful in spite of the odds.
People with no college education go on to found successful companies and become millionaires, while others who have gone to the best schools in the world never seem to find their place and never achieve real financial or career success. No matter what circumstances you are in, or are given, you can make lemonade from the lemons life hands you. Keep focused on your goals and desired outcomes, and figure out what stands in your way—your personal obstacles. Identifying the obstacles allows you to systemically remove them on the way to your desired outcome.
It’s a process, not a destination
We’ve all heard this hundreds of times. Why, then, do we seem to tie our happiness to ‘when’ we get somewhere? Life truly is a journey. Change is going to happen whether we want it to or not. And even once we get somewhere we want to go, we might find we really want to go somewhere else. It’s important to have goals and dreams, but not depend on their achievement for our happiness in the now. Try to find joy in each day. It can be as simple as feeling the sun on your face, spending time with a pet or hobby, or having a meaningful conversation with a child, parent or other family member.
Make a Thankful List every day. List what you are grateful for and what makes you happy in your life. Take stock every day of what you have—your skills, your creativity, your home, your family and your health. Look for the little things, too.
Consider having a “Grateful Box” easily available and put pieces of paper into it each day about things you are grateful for. Read them at the end of each day, or each week. Make ongoing lists that you can refer to anytime you feel sad, or stuck. Think of your change journey as a cruise ship. Getting to the destination is just as much fun as being there. There are buffets, games, friendly people and open seas. Make your life a cruise that contains enjoyment each day as you navigate the waters of change.
The cycle of life will continue with changes that you put into place, and others that are thrust upon you. The great news is that we can effect change, whether it is something we seek out, or we are dealing with it unexpectedly. Learning to embrace change by using any of these six key concepts will increase your chances to make the process of change, and the results you get, more positive and effective for you. But it does take effort on your part.
Simply allowing the change to unfold without considering these concepts leaves you open and vulnerable. Instead, choose to approach change as the Random House Dictionary suggests: “To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of [something] different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone…” Don’t just leave it alone, make the shift happen for you.