Guest Blogger Hillary Hutchinson is a change strategist. She has helped many of her clients through some big transitions. We asked her to share some of the best secrets she has learned over the years…….and here they are. Thanks Hillary!
Change happens. This is one thing human beings can agree upon, no matter their age, stage, gender, culture, or any other significant difference. Yet we human beings have an innate tendency to resist change: in our routines, in our jobs or careers, in our relationships, and even physically in our bodies.
Most people get anxious, apprehensive, stressed, or fearful about change, even when we believe the change will ultimately be good for us. Examples might include getting married, having a child, changing employers, moving to a new city, starting a new career. However, it is even scarier and harder to deal with change when it is thrust upon us through circumstances not within our control such as a bad economy, a company-induced transfer to a different location, or horribly, the death of a very special loved one.
Things are going to be different. Like it or not.
Before I talk about what to do to handle change, recognize that change comes two ways:
Externally (as in the above examples), and internally (your own attitude towards it). Because something is always changing, you need an attitude that accepts it as a natural occurrence in life: The weather changes, seasons change, we change—we shed all our skin cells every two weeks—our dreams change, and our thinking changes. Thank goodness, because without change, nothing could grow and we would all be stagnant beings on this planet.
Change theorists (William Bridges, Robert Kegan, John P. Kotter, Stephen Warrilow are among the many writers on this topic) agree that change is a process and it has a predictable pattern. The names they use to describe the stages vary, but in simplest terms, this is what to expect:
- Stage 1: You must grieve whatever it is that you are letting go; there is no way around this process, only through it;
- Stage 2: You will no doubt enter a period of doubt and uncertainty, where nothing appears to be happening on the surface of your consciousness, but much is taking place below subconsciously (sometimes referred to as “the dormant period);
- Stage 3: You will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and finally be ready to take action, with a sense of hope for the outcome.
Stage 2 is where it can get really tricky. This is the stage where people often feel lost and alone, and want to throw in the towel on moving through the transitional process. Without a sense of the pattern, it’s easy to fight the change by being angry, staying in denial about it, getting depressed, trying to bargain for a different outcome, feeling fragile, hurt or victimized by the situation, and generally resisting the change.
What’s needed is a way to approach the change, whatever it is, from the standpoint of not only acceptance, but with a genuine sense that the change can and should be embraced. If you are proactive rather than reactive, embracing change can lead to real transformation.
Below are 7 easy secrets to help you accept what is happening and embrace change for your own benefit:
1. Believe that you can handle the change.
You need to believe in your skills, capabilities, and competence. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to believe that you are capable. You can do this.
2. Face your fear.
Acknowledge what you are afraid of or worried about. Think about how you have conquered that specific fear in the past. Remind yourself of other successes you’ve had. Think about other times you’ve faced changes and did just fine. Devise a plan for managing it this time.
3. Challenge yourself to “gut” through it.
Resist those impulses to avoid the challenge, and the fear. While avoidance may get you a reprieve temporarily, it won’t help you with change situations in the future. Do you really want to be locked into something that is no longer satisfying because of your fear of change?
4. Approach your fear in small steps.
If the challenge seems too big, ask yourself, “What is some small thing I can do that will move me closer to conquering my fear?” Each step will bring you a bit closer to mastering the change, and will make your fear more manageable. You may even be surprised to discover that whatever you’d feared just disappears as you move forwardlittle by little.
5. Notice how different it feels when you master your fear.
The change that once seemed so overwhelming may feel almost comfortable. Celebrate your success at mastering change! Remember it, so that you can utilize this success in future “change situations.” Before you know it, you will be able to move through change without difficulty. Who knows? You might even embrace change, and seek it out!
6. Focus on the future. Ask yourself:
- What is it I really, really want? (Dream)
- Why bother? (Motivation)
- What is life going to look like after I have made the change? (Goal)
- What is pay-off if I don’t change? (Reality check)
- What are my resources? (Particular knowledge or skill)
- What will I do to make it happen? (Action)
- Who will I tell to make this real? (Accountability)
Remind yourself that change is natural. In and of itself, change is neither good nor bad. However, it can either feel good or feel bad, depending on your perspective.
Knowing what to expect, being prepared to actively deal with any change in your future, can help you embrace the transitions ahead with greater equanimity and aplomb.
Guest Blogger, Hillary Hutchinson has been helping people handle change as a change strategist for years. For more information about Hillary and her work, visit her website at http://www.transitioningyourlife.com/
How do you handle change? Do you have any secrets you want to share with us??