5 Ways to Master Change

There is no doubt that one of the most unpleasant experiences we go through is change. It’s always struck me as strange that so many people claim to look for challenge in their lives and seem to abhor the very idea of the ‘comfort zone’. On the contrary, it seems to me that we do everything to get ourselves into as comfortable a position as we possibly can, and then do our utmost to stay there.

Thats why ‘change’ when it comes is so painful. In fact, on some levels it’s the most painful process we can go through. Losing a loved one, a divorce, losing a job, moving house etc. are all deeply upsetting when they occur. But other minor changes can completely throw us too.

The really strange thing is, like ‘Fr. Dougal’ in the video clip, we know we are all headed toward the cardboard boxes of change (ahem), it’s the pace of change that is the unknown. We know things will change, they always have, but we trick ourselves into believing the status quo will last forever. In fact, the same thing applies equally to ‘bad times’ as it does to good’. They all change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

We are all driving our Milk Float’s at 4 mph waiting for the impact.

The trick is being able to jump into the Ford Cortina and deal with the situation when it presents itself.

1) Perspective – This is a very useful skill to have. Make sure you can look at things from other people’s perspective. We spoke in a previous blog about ‘going to the balcony’. But equally, put things into context. Dont allow your self to escalate a difficult situation into one impossible to handle. Other that the rare occasions mentioned above, its likely that no one has died. Learn to overcome and control ‘The Flinch’.

The ‘Flinch’ is the fight or flight reflex ingrained in us in our prehistoric infancy. It’s a safety mechanism and has kept us at the top of the evolutionary tree, but it doesn’t help when faced with the minor challenges that have replaced the daily ‘dice with death’. There are very few bears around anymore…

2) Time is on your side – Time heals all wounds. It’s a bit trite, but its true. It’s always a balm to my fevered brow. Experience has taught me that all I have to do is hang on in there. Time will take care of the rest. Sure, it can be a painful process, but I know, as I have been through change, upset, sickness, loss or whatever before, I will be able to pass beyond it, and look back and learn the lessons that were available. I will be able to say ‘it didnt kill me, it made me stronger’.

3) Preparation – Make sure you are in the very best place to deal with change. Ensure you are doing your best work. Every day. Leave nothing to chance. It’s the case that talent wins out, and talent that works hard to produce results is a hard act to follow. Get yourself trained. Even informal learning at the highest level is available to us online. Be ahead of the curve. Set agenda’s. Consider writing a blog to prove those things are the case!

Make sure you are physically fit. There aren’t any bears to run away from anymore, but you’ll need your wits about you, and a healthy body promotes a healthy mind. You’ll be way more able to handle the stress of change if you are fit and in terms of first impressions in your job hunting or when getting back into the dating game for instance, are vital. It stands to reason these things will benefit you RIGHT NOW much less at that indistinct point in the future where change will happen to you.

4) Stay in the now – Don’t chase the future, don’t wish your life away worrying about what may come to be. And equally, don’t chase your thoughts back into the past. Unless you have a time machine, there is absolutely nothing you can do about either the past or the future. Stay here, in the now, where you can do some good.

Be kind to yourself. You have made mistakes yes, we all have. But they do not make you a bad person. Our thoughts are not our minds. Thoughts occur in our minds and we are able to observe them as they enter and leave. You can only deal with what is in front of you.

So take the lessons life has taught you and give yourself a break. Your intentions are good, keep that in mind. And unless you have the perfect picture of what is going to happen, there is no point in wasting valuable brain power in trying to capture every eventuality in the future and its myriad possibilities. Stay where you are, and deal with that. Its enough.

5) CHOICE – The most powerful force in the universe. You can choose what to do, what to think, and how to react. Lets be clear. You can’t influence what is going to happen to you. Nobody choses to fall ill, or to lose their job. But you can choose how you will react to it.

Positivity has no place in the modern world in my opinion. Facing the day with a smile will have as much impact as wearing a red jumper. But choosing to allow yourself to be a victim has huge impact. Picking yourself up off the floor and choosing to go one more round is what makes you different from everyone else. It’s what makes you a champion. Its not easy of course. Otherwise everyone would do it. But it is undoubtably the magic ingredient in your success or otherwise. Chose to keep going, Chose to win.

And here are two extra things to think about when managing people going through change on an orgnaisational level.

In order to manage change, one must sell change. Have a vision of where you are going and why its important to get there. Tell people. Invite them to join you on the journey. If they don’t want to come along, maybe thats answer enough? And be transparent. Communicate, its the vital component thats often overlooked. The ‘not knowing’ is worse for everyone.

What do you think? Any tips to add? Anything you don’t agree with? Let me know – Tweet me here @radiojaja or email directly on [email protected] Even better, leave a comment below!

  1. gristpresent
    gristpresent says:

    Cracking stuff. I’m heart;y sick of the aphorisms of many people on Twitter. I think being told to smile is patronising nonsense, but this is useful stuff. As Biologist by training I’m quite confused by our poor ability to predict change. When the housing market is going up we all think it will go on for ever. The truth is ‘what goes up will always come down’ and vice versa. It’s confusing because it’s a lousy survival strategy – if it’s sunny today and food is plentiful why worry? But in the middle of winter we will pay the price. the other thing is we are optimistic by nature (I’ve blogged on this) but pessimism seems by far the best survival strategy. That bush probably has a lion in it, this water will probably run out, those people are probably hostile… Yet we are optimistic. Why? It seems a bad idea. Obviously I’m a pessimist but even so…

  2. Tony Dowling
    Tony Dowling says:

    Ha Ha! I love that Bill, inbuilt pessimism as a survival trait!
    Wouldn’t a really clear and even handed appraisal of our situations merely result in us all just giving up?
    Evolution has given us blind optimism resulting in us continuing to think ‘everything’ will be OK, despite the evidence to the contrary!
    Thanks as ever for the great comment.

  3. Tony Dowling
    Tony Dowling says:

    Heres a comment from Mike Bersin, a regular contributer, who is currently unable to leave comments for some strange reason, but I didnt want to leave him out!

    “Hi Tony – too true about change – wise words, especially there’s “only the now” – it’s remembering stuff from the past or borrowing imagined pain from the future that screws us up – there IS only right now – which, interestingly, is mostly OK.

    One of the things I learned about being major change is: it’s Year Zero – any and all the credibility you built up is all gone and counts for nothing – you have to start again with the new situation – hence the wisdom of your “do a good job every day”

    Also – I have learned that what you think you are you become. For the last month I have been concentrating on “I am a thin, happy person” – and guess what? I’m mostly happy and I’m losing weight (which makes me even happier!)

    And finally, the secret of life: remain extant as long as possible.”

    Thanks Mike!