How do you deal with change?
There is a lot of talk about “change" - how important it is, how we should alter the way we do to things at work and in our personal lives in order to be more effective. Sometimes we even hear how it is essential to change even if just for change's sake.
At Impact Factory, we too think that change is important. However we are more interested in the process of change and what the implications of change actually are.
We exist within contradiction. On the one hand, we need stability and perform well when we feel secure and established in our working and home lives. On the other hand we can become stagnant, complacent and uncreative when we shy away from change or when we find we simply cannot cope with it.
How can we bring these two ideas together so that we can rest easier and deal better with change?
One way is to look at how limiting beliefs, patterns and bad habits get in the way of our being able to incorporate change into our lives when it happens.
We cannot usually predict when change will happen, but we can be better equipped to deal with it when it does.
We can look at the limitations we all put on ourselves and how they hold us back from being open to change.
We can start to understand how patterns occur and what we can do to begin altering limiting habits and patterns. And we can look at the various kinds of changes there are and some effective ways of approaching them.
So What Types of Change are there? Some change is easy; often it is more difficult; and sometimes it can seem downright impossible.
From our point of view there are five kinds of changes:
Straightforward change, like changing your car or changing your hairstyle. Changing something you already do and relearning a new way, like changing your golf swing.
Changing something that obviously needs changing, but you either don't want to or you can't quite see how it could be done. This kind of change usually involves a habit - for instance, smoking - You know you shouldn't, but you can't seem to stop.
Changing something you absolutely, positively know you can't change. This kind of change is about beliefs.
Change that's imposed upon you, and over which you appear to have no control.
The first three we grapple with every day of our lives. We change in little ways all the time. We may struggle a bit with this kind of change. We may never give up smoking, but they are the kind of things we are conscious of. We can choose relatively easily how we will deal with this kind of change.
Yes, I may struggle over whether to change my hairstyle or not and I may get some comments for a few days, but it is unlikely that a change in hairstyle is going to fundamentally change my life. A lot of other things would have to happen alongside that.
It is the fourth and fifth types of change that can be the more difficult and therefore more challenging and confrontational. Both these types come right up against beliefs that we've created that underpin our whole lives.
The fourth type of change asks us to change a point of view, adopt a way of seeing the world that is at odds with the way we are used to seeing it. This experience can easily tap into our insecurity. We can develop a feeling of unsureness, a sense of not quite knowing what's the ‘right’ thing to do. There is no longer a predictable, reliable pattern to follow.
The fifth type, imposed change, can often feel like suffering. If we have no say in the matter we can feel like it is being done to us. We can feel cheated or hoodwinked. Often, even those who instigate it will disown this type of change. “We have no choice. The market has changed and we must change with it. "
When change is imposed or brings us up against our beliefs we can easily feel disempowered by the experience.
On the other hand, it is also true that some people thrive on change. They can't stay in one job, in one relationship, in one country for very long. They need to shake up their own status quo. They sometimes create change just for the sake of it.
Why Is Change So Hard Sometimes?
We are pattern-making mechanisms. In general, our systems are more comfortable with pattern and routine than with change. Once a pattern is established, our left-brains will quite happily keep marching along that path.
Most patterns get set very quickly; so think what resistance we have when we try to change patterns that have been part of lives for years.
Some patterns are as simple and straightforward as the route we take into work every day. Some patterns are as complex as the way we feel about ourselves.
For instance, the fourth type of change: something I don't believe can change. A limiting belief.
Restricting or limiting patterns that people have are often to do with low self-esteem. These can be the hardest patterns to break. The reason is that a belief system, the pattern, is stronger than the contradictory evidence: it's been around longer.
If, as I'm growing up, I hear over and over again what's wrong with me and what I need to do to in order to improve myself, then I will have a well entrenched belief system established. Even when I no longer have my parents and or teachers to reinforce it, the pattern will persist. Now they are gone I speak to myself with that same punitive voice. So even in the face of evidence that I have done a job well, there will be this voice telling me how it could have gone better.
For me to change that voice I first have to become conscious that it's there. “Oh look, I just told myself off again. " Then I have to do a good deal of what you might call reprogramming. I have to talk to myself or with other people about how well I've done. I have to create an opposing voice of acknowledgement and praise to counterbalance the punitive voice.
Paradoxically imposed change can sometimes be easier to deal with. The trick is getting past the – “I don't want to. " “It's not fair. " “Why me?"
Our dissatisfaction and helplessness about this type of change comes about because we didn't buy into the agreement, we were never consulted.
The only way through this type of change is through negotiation with yourself and other people affected. Relief from the stress and upset caused by imposed change comes about when people choose to accept and commit to the change, to stop fighting or feeling resentful. If this doesn't happen then people leave, move away, get divorced, start sectarian underground movements.
Change is inevitable; and mostly change is for the good. No one lives a life free of change, but sometimes we are afflicted by more change or demands for change than we can cope with. When this happens it helps to look at what change is going to get your attention and effort.
Look for the smallest change that will achieve what is needed and be wary of wholesale change and change for change's sake.
Look also at the fourth type of change, yours and other people's beliefs or ways of seeing things. Changing in this area may be harder work but the end result of people changing their attitude to something can be dramatic.
Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory a training company who provide Change Management Training , Public Speaking, Presentation Skills, Communications Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for Individuals.