How do you react to the C word?
There are many potentially scary things in the world: bridges, tarantulas, spandex…the list goes on and on. We all deal with a variety of fears, both large and small, as we go through life. However, one fear that’s common to a LOT of people is The Big C: Change.
Why do so many of us get so freaked out when faced with change? There are a number of possible reasons:
- It takes more effort to do things in an unfamiliar way, and that’s likely to make your inner sloth unhappy.
- When you’re a novice at something, you’re almost certain to perform at a relatively low level—and who in her right mind likes to fumble around and feel inept when she’s used to having her act together?
- Your ego, which is primarily concerned with keeping you “safe”, gets its shorts in a bundle when you’re faced with a situation which is likely to cause you some initial discomfort.
Will you be paralyzed or inspired by change?
Here’s the problem, though: You’ll pay a very high price if you dig in your heels and try to resist change.
For one thing, you’re doomed to failure. Everything—whether you’re talking about a business, a living organism, or a society—must change or die. And since death is an unattractive option, that means that you will get to deal with change. It then becomes a question of whether you’ll (a) fight it tooth and nail or (b) plunge into it wholeheartedly and expect some good to come of it. As John C. Maxwell said, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
Another cost of resisting change is that you rob yourself of energy and personal power. It’s not only exhausting to keep your guard up to try to keep change out of your life; it also makes you feel like a chicken who’s not brave enough to deal with uncertainty and short-term discomfort.
A third down side of fighting change is the fact that what we resist, persists. Just think of times in the past when you resisted some change. Did that make the impending change disappear? Ah, if only!
So: You’re not willing to pay the price for trying to stop change, but you’re also less than excited about fumbling around coping with it. Is there any way to make change less icky to deal with? Fortunately, the answer is “yes”: There are steps you can take to accomplish just that.
Shift your perspective.
Choose to view change as not only inevitable, but as an opportunity. Maybe the new process/software/relationship/whatever will actually be easier for you to handle than the old one was. Maybe it will remove some constraints that had been slowing you down. Maybe it will give you a chance to shine brighter than you did before. It’s your choice how you will view change.
Take charge and practice.
Several years ago, I participated in The 3 Day, a walk organized by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise funds for breast cancer research. It was a big honkin’ step outside my comfort zone. Actually, it was a lot of steps: Participants walked 60 miles in 3 days. For all of us, that was a BIG change in our usual activity levels.
The walkers who handled the challenge most easily were those who prepared and trained consistently. They started out with short walks, then built up to 20-mile practice walks to strengthen their muscles and build their foot calluses. They bought high-quality walking shoes. They discovered the joys of pampering their feet with Body Glide, a magical application that reduces friction and prevents blisters. In short, they knew they were going to face a serious challenge; they identified the changes they’d have to make in their daily routines in order to prepare for it; and they generally did everything possible to ensure that they’d get through that challenge triumphantly (and in minimal pain).
On the other hand, some walkers only made it a few miles before ending up in the First Aid tents, being treated for everything from pulled muscles to enormous blisters to dehydration. They were the ones who thought they could pretty much wing it, without any special preparation. Not their best decision.
Looking at our incredibly fast-changing world, would it make sense to try rolling with whatever punches came along? Not so much.
Although the change coming at you may not be as clear-cut as “walk 60 miles in 3 days instead of sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day”, you will have some big, challenging changes to deal with. Fortunately, you can practice for the big ones by actively seeking out smaller, less intimidating ones to practice on. Drive a different route to your favorite restaurant. Shop at a new grocery store. Freshen up the tired old “elevator speech” you use at networking events. Implementing small changes at a time and place of your own choosing will enable you to feel more in control, less stressed, and more confident about your ability to deal with bigger changes.
Always seek an equilibrium between stretching your comfort zone and listening to your gut when it yells, “Danger, Will Robinson!”
This would have been a really good one for me to remember during The 3 Day.
I’d gotten extremely good results during my training by using Body Glide to prevent blisters, and I made sure I packed my trusty BG dispenser for the walk. However, part way through the first day another participant was raving to me about how wearing two thin pairs of socks was working so well for her to keep her feet comfortable. This was not her first experience with The 3 Day, so I figured she really knew what she was talking about. As a result, I ignored my gut, which was telling me to stick with a practice I knew worked for me. Instead, I abandoned my faithful BG and tried the double-sock approach. Bad, bad decision; I ended up being one of those being treated for blisters which were the approximate size of New Jersey. (Did I mention this was a bad decision?) I did complete the walk, but the pain reduced me to a kind of Frankenstein lurch over the finish line.
Choosing to be courageous and tackle something new is an excellent practice, but it’s not always in your best interests. Be open to guidance from your inner wisdom (and don’t fret about how you know something without knowing how you know it).
Expect it to actively improve your life.
This is the more proactive cousin of the first “shift your perspective” strategy, and a great way to make a self-fulfilling prophecy work for you. By assuming that the change will have a positive impact on your life, you’re essentially programming yourself to look for and find that impact. You’ll unleash your creativity to create results that are far better than you could ever have gotten by resisting the change with all your might.
What are some of the ways you’ve successfully dealt with the changes life throws at you? Have some strategies worked better than others?
Or at you a point where there’s just so damn much change coming at you that you’re really tempted to curl up in a fetal position and just hope it all goes away? If that rings some bells, maybe I can help you uncurl.
The first step in restoring my clients’ sanity is to clear their mental decks so they’re not so overwhelmed. Then we figure out the smart stuff to do and how to do it, and then I hold them accountable for the doing part. They’re more willing and able to make changes because they feel calm, focused, and in control.
If that sounds like a little slice of heaven, how ‘bout we explore the possibility that, working together, we can get you there? There’s an easy way to figure that out. Just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “It’s inevitable” in the subject line, and we’ll set up a get-acquainted call. We’ll spend 30 or 40 minutes asking each other some questions, and by the end of that time we’ll be able to confidently start kicking business butt or wish each other well before we say good-bye.
If you’re in the habit of being the Lone Ranger and going it alone, maybe it’s time for a change. ☺
(By the way, thanks to Sean MacEntee for the colorful image he posted in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in change, courage, creativity and tagged action plan, choice. Bookmark the permalink.