changing the way we think about change.
changing the way we think about change.
Whether we’ve made the decision to change, or change has unexpectedly thrust its foot in the door to our world of consistency and predictability, we most likely have at least some information that has influenced our decision or our path forward. Also likely is that we have many questions that have yet to be answered.
Uncertainty is not a comfortable place for many of us. When we feel things are out of our control, it is common to want to grasp onto whatever we can to rebuild that facade a sense of control provides for us. While I believe control to be an illusion, having a sense of control can be calming and comforting.
Detangling the knot of confusion.
Today we’re going to focus on one of the best ways to regain our sense of control, with the added benefit of helping us to get organized in preparing for our change.
Uncertainty lives in the world of chaos. The more uncertainty that exists, the less predictability and consistency we have.
One way to reign in chaos is through structure. Structure helps us to focus on things we know, reduce the importance of what we don’t know, and recognize the difference between the two.
Without structure, it is easy for what we do know, and what we don’t know, to become tangled into one big overwhelming knot of confusion.
With structure, however, we’ve separated the two into easily discernible parts, which allows us to take action where it will have the greatest impact. This saves us time, energy as well as peace of mind.
Becoming aware of knowledge.
In order to detangle this knot of confusion, the first thing to do is to become aware of the situation at hand by asking ourselves two key questions:
But, when considering our knowledge about ourselves and others, we add dimensions to the change that can be helpful to our preparations and transition plan.
Here are some additional questions to help you more clearly define your knowledge of self and others with reference to your change:
Others (Tip: Ask yourself these questions for specific individuals for greater detail)
By asking open-ended questions, we shift ourselves from a fixed to a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, we become more flexible with and resilient to uncertain situations.
Keep in mind that when thinking about others, even though it is best to ask them directly, planning ahead by thinking about their potential response to your change can be helpful in preparing your approach.
Be clear though. When doing this, you are forming assumptions. It is important to stay flexible and open to the possibility that you might misjudge perceptions and reactions. This will help minimize the potential for hurt feelings or conflict if or when any misalignment between your best guesses and actual responses occur.
Attuning to your knowledge gaps through lists.
To highlight the gaps between what you know, and what you want or need to know, we’re going to make some lists.
Lists help to create structure, which is very helpful to have when we feel clouded over by uncertainty.
Lists will help to create definition and clarity, but also will be converted into tangible tasks, which will help you stay focused on efforts that will yield results, rather than spinning your wheels in frustration awaiting clarity on things over which you have little, if any, control.
There are all kinds of lists that can be created, but to get you started, here are a few suggestions:
Create a project plan to align your knowledge.
Now that you have a list of what you know and what you don’t know, it’s time to create a task or to-do list, which will become your preliminary project plan.
If you are someone who is well-versed on project plans as a part of your job, you might already do this. If not, it is easy to forget how useful they can be when preparing for personal change.
Don’t let the sound of a project plan frighten you. It’s just a big word for a guide that tracks what you want to find out, by when, and who is doing what if more than one person are working on finding answers to the need and nice to knows.
This might seem like a lot of work, but this approach is actually a wonderful way to alleviate stress and frustration we often experience around uncertainty and waiting by giving ourselves something to do. This, then, provides us with a sense of control in what otherwise might feel like a chaotic situation.
Here’s the gist:
Sample lists and preliminary project plans will be included as a bonus in the PDF of this topic, which will be made available in early January. Click below to reserve your FREE copy.
Get real with your plan.
As has been the case with everything presented in this topic of Preparing For Change, this project plan is designed specifically for YOU. This means, that it must also be accurate and relevant to your needs and desires around your change.
Doing this will keep you feeling confident and with a sense of control. But while we might feel we've got a grip on things when we've kept the plan up-to-date, remember that we're hanging from a ledge with sweaty palms, at least in the beginning as we climb our way through our transition to a new way of being.
Our confidence can easily shift into distress and overwhelm if we let the plan fall through our grips. When that happens, the plan will become just another thing we should do, and we will begin our free-fall back into the chasm of chaos.
If you work best with paper, make a paper-based plan. If you’re a spreadsheet person, put it in a spreadsheet.
Do what works for you, and you will be well on your way to feeling prepared and confident with your change; a much better place to be than hanging around wondering and worrying about things well outside of your circle of influence.
There are some great benefits to linear thinking when applied to change; checklists, schedules, budgets, plans and processes, just to name a few.
However, as I’ve touched upon in previous posts, there are also some downsides to this approach; an expectation of consistency, assumption that mistakes are bad, and a sense of finality upon reaching 'the summit'.
Today I offer a complimentary approach to how we think about change, which is also the foundation for the idea behind changevolution. Spiral Thinking.
What is Spiral Thinking?
I define Spiral Thinking as that which recognizes a spiral movement of a given idea, concept, plan or behavior.
This movement does not follow the path of a straight line.
It is circular, in that we often revisit the same or similar topics, goals or actions, yet in a way that honors the evolution (or as I like to call it, the changevolution) of these things.
We learn from our mistakes, as well as from our successes. We build upon what we currently know to create new knowledge and approaches. It is only rarely that such new knowledge and approaches are without the foundation of existing learning.
When it comes to change, Spiral Thinking allows for advances as well as setbacks in a way where setbacks aren’t viewed as bad. Rather, they are considered a natural part of the evolutionary process of learning.
New ways of being require practice to become competent, and practice is at its best when we allow ourselves to fail as well as to succeed.
This point of view also recognizes that we are always learning and evolving, so there are always opportunities to hone, tweak and improve.
This then eliminates (or at least greatly reduces) the pressure and interference of fixed expectations such as perfection (to assume that something can, in fact, reach its maximum potential), or finality ("okay, the change is over, I can check it off of my list") can invoke.
“You cannot dig a hole in a different place
What does this have to do with preparing for change?
As we delve into the various aspects of Preparing For Change, approaching this journey with acceptance that we are participating in a journey - a process of change that currently has no roadmap - will increase our resilience amidst perceived setbacks.
This will happen by learning how to think of these challenges differently, with a growth, rather than a fixed, mindset.
What we once might have thought to be roadblocks, we will instead think of as information. As opportunities for learning and adjustment.
After all, that’s all roadblocks and setbacks really are; informative signs that offer us a choice: Do we revise our approach - our process of determining our desires, needs, gaps, and how to design a plan that works best for us - or do we call it quits and give up?
The spiraled process of adapting to Spiral Thinking.
Spiral Thinking does not come naturally to most of us, and is, as a result, a spiral process in and of itself.
We might start out strong and positive, but then face an unexpected situation or challenge that tests our resolve. We might falter, going back to our comfort zone of linear thinking for a while.
At some point though, if we stick with it, we will notice what has happened and make adjustments to help get us back into our growth mindset. The next time we face a challenge, we might falter again, but maybe not as deeply or for as long.
Learning and adaptation are evolutionary practices. Keeping this at the forefront of our thinking as we begin examining ways to prepare for change will help us to integrate this approach into our personal change plan.
Spiral Thinking is a both/and approach.
Last but not least, I believe Spiral Thinking to be inclusive of linear ways of thinking as well.
As mentioned earlier, there are wonderful benefits to defined and structured thinking, but also some downsides.
Spiral Thinking suggests that some of what we once thought of as clear, defined and consistent, might not actually be so neat and orderly as we would like, and accepts that this is okay.
Rather than trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, why not make room for both?
Coming up next...
Coming up next, Building Awareness for Conscientious Change.
Remember, I’m creating a PDF version of this completed series, which will also include some bonus material that won’t appear elsewhere. Click below to reserve your copy today.
Some of us consider change to be a hassle. A disruption to our lives. Others find it frightening to step into the great unknown.
As for me, I think of change as like a holiday. A break from the regular routine, and with the potential for some awesome surprises.
When we don’t know what’s yet to come, we have a wonderful opportunity to imagine. There are so many options available from which to choose, or we can leave things up to chance to determine our path.
Either way, looking at change this way can definitely make it feel lighter and much more enjoyable.
When we take a holiday, whether something traditional like Thanksgiving or New Year, or personal such as a vacation, we usually have a break from our normal routines.
We plan and prepare in a way that brings delight to ourselves or to others. Sometimes, the preparations up-front are more enjoyable than the actual event! And that is the point. One of the great things about holidays is that they are usually something we tend to look forward to.
Engage in joyful anticipation.
Remember as children (and hopefully also as adults) how exciting it was before holidays and our birthday as we wondered how it would all turn out? It is in this anticipation that we often find the greatest joy.
I realize I’ve written in the past about anticipation being an opening for fears to creep into the picture, but if we anticipate joy, there is really no place for fears as long as we allow ourselves to remain within this mindset.
Enjoying the journey is important. And the more we enjoy it, the smoother our adaptation to what comes next is likely to be.
Anticipating what is yet to come, while enjoying ourselves along the way, are two of the the greatest gifts within change, if we allow ourselves to receive them.
So what are you waiting for? Why not give yourself the gift of perspective for the upcoming holidays and enjoy what's yet to come!
Opening the door, they stepped across the threshold of the great unknown. Little did they know that in doing so, they were letting go of their sense of control.
Everything was new and unpredictable, and there was nothing with which to hold on to, except the sense that everything they knew was a thing of the past.
It was as if they had entered a whole new world. A world with no structure, no familiarity, no patterns. A world of chaos.
Welcome to the scary world of things that go bump in the night; otherwise known as the world of uncertainty.
This is a very real fear for many of us, because when we embark on a change, whether planned or imposed, much of what was familiar becomes new, and it feels as though we have stepped into a huge steel fully encased slide spiraling down into complete darkness.
It is easy to believe that what’s at the other end of this darkness is scary, because we don’t have the benefit of control to maintain a comfortable pace and clarity of outcome.
We have to trust in ourselves, and whatever faith system we prescribe to, if any, if we want to stay centered.
And trust is a very challenging thing to find when we feel left in the dark, where every sensation, every event, every sound can conjure up our worst fears.
May the force be with you.
But instead of allowing ourselves to think of the worst possible outcome, what if we chose to shift our perspective?
What if instead of entertaining the potential for our darkest fears, we choose to think of it as using the force?
By listening to ourselves - both our heads and our hearts - we can be guided to the best possible outcome for us.
By letting go of our need for control, we let the force lead us and protect us.
And by letting go we get to experience the freedom of flight. Of going where we’ve never gone before, and loving most if not every minute, rather than cowering under the covers, of our journey.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where we tap into What Lies Beneath.
This week we’ve investigated the difference between distractions and disruptions.
Where we typically have a choice as to whether or not to allow ourselves to be distracted, disruptions require our attention. How we weave the disruption into our regular schedule is the tricky part, and it is easy to allow our focus to be monopolized by the disruption, while other things that are important to us suffer as a result.
Yesterday we began an exercise to identify our top priorities and to categories them into themes. The purpose of this was to remind ourselves of what is most important to us, with the hope of keeping those things at the forefront even when disruptions occur.
But disruptions by their very nature interrupt our plans, so even when we remember those things that mean the most to us, and try to carve out time to attend to them, it is easy to become hyper-focused on the disruption to the point that those other things are ignored until the disruption has been stabilized or resolved.
Focusing on our circle of influence.
Today I offer one last exercise, which many of you may have seen before but in a slightly different form. It’s based on Dr. Steven Covey’s work on the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence, from his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Basically, Covey suggested that there are some things that are within our ability to influence, but these things only include a a portion of what is within our area of concern.
For example, we may have concern over the the economic stability of Greece, but it isn’t within our area of influence. Covey suggests we only focus on those things we can influence, and to do so proactively, rather than waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it.
Using this perspective, let’s pick up where we left off from yesterday’s exercise, in which we created a basic priority hierarchy.
We first listed our responsibilities and placed them into themes, such as work, family, personal, and so on. I then suggested thinking about where and when disruptions or competing priorities tend have the greatest impact.
For example, having to work late at the office with no prior notice creates discord at home. Using this example, where do we have influence to make changes to reduce the amount of disruption that occurs?
Weaving in our priorities.
Our priority hierarchy may come into to play when considering what we want, and don’t want to influence.
For example, let’s say we have determined that work is our highest priority, because although family is very important, if we don’t have money to support them, they will suffer. When this is the case, focusing on how we can accommodate the needs of our family in order to meet the demands of our job makes sense.
However, what if we have decided that our top priority is to our family, and that, although also important, work demands have to come second to family needs (this might especially ring true when both parents work, but one has a higher level of responsibility to meeting the needs of the family so the other can meet the needs of the job)?
In this scenario, a situation such as impromptu overtime might solicit a very different response. It might mean establishing some very clear boundaries around work, and an understanding that if situations arise where the needs of the family rises above the needs of work, that family will come first. It may mean being willing to quit or lose our job if we find the needs of the family frequently interfere with our work.
By working through some of these situations in a proactive light, which may be based on events of the past, that we might find what is currently considered our top priority actually isn’t. Or that our priorities have changed but we haven’t yet recognized or accepted it yet.
Gaining clarity after the storm of disruption.
In many cases, our highest priorities shift based on context, so when we’re at work, work comes first, and when we’re at home, family comes first. And this is fine, and completely normal, until a disruption occurs.
It is in these disruptions that our priorities can suffer, but we can also become clearer about our true priorities. Because when we are required to pay attention to things we otherwise may have taken for granted, we have the opportunity to realize just how important they are to us.
Or, when we are pulled away from things we consider really important to attend to things that may be urgent, but we consider to be a lower priority, we may decide to make some changes to prevent less urgent things from taking our focus away from more important things in the future.
3 main things to remember.
To wrap up this section on distractions and disruptions I want to emphasize the importance of empowering ourselves to:
How does this relate to change & transition?
I realize much of this week’s theme has expanded beyond the topic of change and transition, but even so I believe that it can have a direct affect on our ability to adapt to change.
Disruptions often require rapid adaptation, and most of us have to respond in the moment because we haven’t really considered how our lives and priorities might be impacted by the unexpected.
Distractions tend to pop up especially in times of uncertainty. And there is usually quite a bit of that when we’re trying to make our quantum leap of change.
But when we’re aware of the potential influence of distractions and disruptions on maintaining our focus, and we’re intentional with how and when we allow distractions to distract, and what to pay attention to when disruptions disrupt, we are much more aligned as a result. And with alignment comes an assurance that we’re well on our way to a smoother transition to a successful change.
Wishing you a changevolutionary weekend - thanks for reading!
My family and I experienced a string of what we called distractions over the past couple of years.
Almost all were family or home-related issues, “These distractions are taking us away from getting our real work done!” my husband would complain.
At some point, I started to think about this in greater detail. What were these things that were frequently interfering with our daily schedules?
What resulted was an interesting journey indeed. Upon review, I began to realize that while some of the things that occurred did, in fact, constitute distractions, others felt bigger, and more important than the word distraction suggested. And so, in my usual way, I worked on some definitions (one of which will appear in tomorrow's post).
Distractions, as I define them, are things that create interruptions to our original plan by choice. That’s right, it is our choice as to whether or not we allow distractions to draw us away from other activities.
Here’s an example: After living in our current house for several years, we began to notice wear and tear on our back yard landscaping that was beyond our ability to resolve ourselves.
So we began interviewing prospective contractors, and then chose one to help us draft a preliminary plan. There were a lot of meetings, and some choices on materials that had to be made in order for the contractor to provide us with a bid for the work. All of these things took place during the day, and distracted us from doing what we ordinarily would have completed during that time.
But did we have to do it? No. While we wanted to have a plan in place in the event our back yard deteriorated to the point of having to take action quickly, we didn’t have to do it at that time, and, in fact, we could have chosen to pace our meetings out to a point where they wouldn’t have felt so demanding of our time.
And did we have to take these meetings during the day? No. We could have requested they take place in the evening, or on weekends. It was our choice to have them during the day so they wouldn’t interfere with family time.
But in the moment those meetings felt overwhelming, and as we had agreed to schedule them, we felt obligated to keep them, and to accommodate the requests of the contractor, who was keen on submitting a comprehensive plan and bid.
Two years later, and we still haven’t acted on those plans, so there clearly wasn’t any real urgency, but we had artificially created the sense that urgency existed.
Distractions can be sneaky.
What I found really interesting was how this and many other distractions seemed to take on a life of their own.
We allowed them to permeate our lives because we had an interest in gaining certainty around a specific question, and even though the question had nothing to do with our day-to-day responsibilities, we allowed it to take over these things, in part, because it was fun.
We might not have enjoyed the sense of overwhelm that occurred when we began feeling as though we weren’t accomplishing things that were of a higher priority. But because we hadn’t clearly determined what, in fact, our top priorities were, these side-activities eked their way to the top of the list without our noticing until our higher priorities began to suffer as a result.
What we can learn from distractions.
They are attracted to certain conditions.
This experience taught me that there are lessons to be learned from distractions. One of those is that we allow distractions to enter our lives when certain conditions are present:
What if we accept, instead of reject them?
Distractions serve many purposes, most of which we are unwilling to acknowledge.
It is difficult to accept that we could willingly allow something to detract us from our plans, because doing so might suggest we aren’t perfect. But we are human. So would accepting that we allowed ourselves to be distracted really be so bad?
As the saying goes, what we resist, persists. And to disregard the value of distractions, blaming them for our troubles, is just another way to ignore them and hope they go away.
Except instead of going away, even more tend to pop up. It’s as if they’re trying to tell us something, but because it feels like they’ve been strategically placed in our way to keep us from accomplishing our goals, we are usually unwilling to listen.
Instead, I propose we shift our perceptions of distractions, and embrace them as opportunities instead of labeling them as annoyances.
Here are some examples:
Warning! Intention is key!
Now for the caveat. While I propose that distractions can offer us insight into underlying issues for allowing them into our lives, and that embracing may be what is needed in order to resolve those issues, I must also offer some words of caution.
By embracing distractions we run the potential for them to dominate our time if we aren’t being intentional. Yep, there’s that word again.
I believe an unintentional approach to distractions is what leads to behavior we might consider scattered. Those of us who feel pulled in multiple directions, unable to complete a thought or sentence, surrounded by this cloud of phrenetic chaos. Always busy but accomplishing little.
Here are a few suggestions to minimize the risks:
Establishing boundaries around those distractions we are willing to let into our lives, and those we are not, will help minimize the risk of taking on too many, which could completely deter us from our focus.
Tomorrow’s post will include an exercise on how to identify our most important things, and what to do when competing priorities arise.
Could distractions indicate misalignment?
Last but not least, when we are in the midst of planning or undergoing a transition, allowing ourselves to be distracted could be an indicator that we are not completely aligned with our change.
This could suggest that something is not quite right or is missing. By paying attention to when distractions show up, and whether or not we are willing to take them on instead of focusing on the road ahead, we can then dig deeper into what we need to hop back in the driver’s seat and stay the course, rather than exiting at every roadside attraction.
Sometimes stopping at a wayside offers us the space we need to notice what is missing. But in order to allow for that to happen, we must remember to be intentional.
Otherwise, the distractions will likely increase, and we’ll eventually run out of gas along some back street of no particular importance.
Coming up next...
Tomorrow we’ll explore the world of disruptions; what they are, how they differ from distractions, and how to effectively manage them when they enter our lives.
There are so many things that compete for our time these days.
Demands for nearly constant connectivity are woven in to personal desires to be in the loop and stay up-to-date with friends, family and others in what has become an almost parallel world within an online space.
In addition, responsibilities in the physical world from our work, family and personal arenas have us trekking here and there, squeezing yet another thing into our already laden schedules, to the point where many of us now feel the need or desire to specifically schedule time for ourselves in order to decompress from the phrenetic pace of daily life.
Even in those times when things feel tolerable, when the unexpected occurs, we are thrown off of our game and into a world where squeezing in yet another thing seems unbearable. Where what originally felt like flow quickly transforms into a strong desire to flee the reality of our fast-paced world.
Adding to the mix the notoriously unpredictable nature of a change, it is easy to want to seek solace in every escape measure at hand in order to cope with all of the chaos.
What does the face of uncertainty look like?
I’ve written in the past about how some people have a tendency to react to uncertain situations by shifting into busy bee mode, and others run the risk of getting stuck in the mud. Another interesting phenomenon shows up in what many of us refer to as distractions.
When unexpected or unplanned tasks, situations, events and such show up in our lives, it is common to label them as distractions, because they are taking us away from things we would otherwise be doing. But is that what they really are?
Many of us also have a tendency to think that distractions are beyond our control, “I wanted to focus on x, but was distracted by y, so I wasn’t able to get to it.”
This mentality places us firmly as passengers, instead of drivers in our lives, as well as in our changes. But does it really have to be this way?
This week we will hone in on the idea of distractions:
We’re also going to consider the idea that some of what we call distractions are actually, in fact, disruptions. We’ll take a look at:
I hope you join us as we explore these topics. I have personally found that clarifying the difference between distractions and disruptions have given me a greater sense of choice and control over my life, and hope you find the same is true for you!
This week we took a look at some of the fears that can take root when change comes knocking on our door. Sometimes change is invited, but other times it’s not. It is often when change drops-in without our invitation, or when we are at the cusp of making a change, but haven’t quite gotten there, that the fears highlighted this week are most likely to pay us a visit.
As a recap, the three fears we looked at had to do with ambiguity, the unknown, and loss or letting go. Reshuffling these around a bit, we can consider them in terms of before, during and after a change has been decided upon:
Before a change - Fear of the unknown.
Issue: Uncertainty around the unknown often happens when a choice about change is looming, but there is no certainty or clarity around the outcome. As a result, we struggle to make a decision because we're afraid we might make the wrong choice.
How to deal:
Benefits: By expanding our focus beyond our individual challenges, we unlock our hyper-focus on the issues and allow other possibilities and more clarity to emerge.
Relinquishing ourselves of drama often also eliminates the fear associated with making a choice with little or no information. It also feels lighter with the benefit of a greater sense of freedom.
Sometimes we create a false sense of urgency. By taking a step-back from the problem, we may find it resolves itself.
Potential risks: Walking away from drama often requires we disassociate with some of the people who thrive in that arena, and this might result in hurt feelings or more desperate attempts by those people to pull you back into the fold. This is why relinquishing ourselves from it requires a conscious commitment on our part, as well as an idea of where to find the kind of support we need before taking this step.
Sometimes the sense of urgency is real, and we could miss out on an opportunity by waiting. If we have hesitancies, however, missing out on the opportunity might actually be a good thing, as other, better, opportunities might be looming just around the corner.
During a change - Ambiguity.
Issue: Ambiguity often happens after a change has been announced, but where there is conflicting information or a lack of direction. There could be answers and clarity, but there isn’t. We are often dependent on others for this information.
How to deal:
Benefits: Redirecting our attention to what we do know, helps us to have a greater sense of control over an otherwise uncertain situation.
Guessing offers us a sense of direction, even if it may require course corrections after more clarity has been gained.
By choosing whether or not to take action, we regain a sense of control over our situation. If we don’t take action, we’ve done so by choice. If we do take action, we may experience the benefit of helping ourselves and others get unstuck.
Potential risks: By choosing to take independent action, we run the risk of over stepping our authority (if on the job), or being blamed for a less-than-desirable outcome. This might not be a problem unless the result of our choices have unintended consequences or otherwise does not turn out well. Either way it is important to consider our choices carefully.
After a change - Difficulty letting go.
Issue: It can be difficult to let go after a change has been announced or has already occurred. We want things to stay the way they are, and we have been informed, one way or another, that this won’t happen.
How to deal:
Benefits: Listening to others can help us become aware of behaviors we otherwise might not have noticed (and which are likely annoying to others). With this knowledge we can explore our fears and other reasons for resisting the change, and can pinpoint areas we already accept as well as what we need in order to let go of what we’re currently holding on to.
Relying on our support network can be very helpful in providing us with sounding boards, insights and guidance to help us move forward.
Potential risks: Sometimes there are flaws in a proposed change that need to be worked out in order for us to trust it. When everyone is in listening mode, the result can be a transition plan that honors everyone involved. Sometimes, however, our needs might go unheard, if other parties involved don’t have their listening ears on or are otherwise resistant to our requests.
Exploring our fears requires brutal honesty with ourselves, and that can be uncomfortable for some. This may require letting go of our need to hide behind our pride and ego, and step into a place of vulnerability; a rewarding, but sometimes difficult, place to be.
If we aren’t aware of our solace needs, we might receive feedback that runs contrary to our best interests. Knowing what we want before we seek it is a helpful way to avoid this experience.
Shifting out of fear.
Fear is a very complex emotion, but is also one that we can shift if we remain conscious to its presence, and our reactions to it.
While it is important to allow and accept our fears, that doesn’t mean we have to dwell on them incessantly. Rather, by allowing them to flow through us, recognizing the information they provide, and adjusting our perceptions, beliefs and behaviors around them, we open the door to much more positive experiences as a result.
Next week we’re going to explore the complexity of our individual reactions to change, using this model as a foundation.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
It seems as though much of our lives are spent trying to create our ideal world. We seek meaningful friendships, people with whom to share our lives and possibly raise a family. At some point most of us want stability; a home, a steady job, reliable income, in order to be able to enjoy our lives to the fullest during, and after, our careers have come to an end.
Yet all of these things are founded on one HUGE fallacy: That when we find what we’re looking for, it will stay the same until WE decide it’s time to change.
It's about time.
We all know that we live in a world of constant change. But when we consider our own lives, where time can slow down to an excruciatingly slow pace (especially when we are anxiously awaiting something to happen), while other times it speeds by so fast we feel we’ve missed the important moments (like being fully present during a vacation or as our children grow up), it is easy to forget about that perpetual motion stuff.
When we find a place of contentment, whether it’s a job, our relationships, our home, schedule, or freedoms, it is only natural for us to want to keep them as they are, because they bring us joy (or if not joy, some semblance of peace or contentment).
When these things that we have grown dependent upon begin to evolve, as all things ultimately do, it is frightening, because we realize that what we have come to know and love may no longer be there for us.
Resistance is futile.
We may not notice the signs of change in those things we want to stay the same because of our attachment to them. As a result, we are surprised, shocked and sometimes dismayed. We want to play tug-o-war with the forces of nature. We resist. We tighten our grip on what is, refusing to consider a future without these things in our lives in their current form.
Change is about beginnings and endings, and the fear of loss or of letting go, is clearly a reaction to the later. A failed marriage, children moving out of the house, forced retirement or lay-off, foreclosure, changes to a job we love.
Sometimes pride enters the picture and we become embarrassed or belligerent, because we aren’t able to maintain control over these things that we love, and that feels like failure.
We believe that we can defeat change by tightening our grip on these things or people we love when at risk of losing them. Except we can’t. Like it or not, things change; they evolve. That’s life.
How to get comfortable with letting go.
There are ways to counteract the need for control and fear of letting go when they seep into our world. Letting go is a choice, and these offer some ways of getting to the point where we can make that decision:
Sometimes we are the last to know that we are resting change by exerting our need to control in other areas of our lives, or by holding on tight to that which is in the process of changing.
Other people in our lives are probably subtly, or not so subtly, pointing these tendencies out to us, but we are too enmeshed in our internal struggles to hear them. It’s time to start paying attention to what they are saying, and to accept that they might be on to something.
Once we recognize what we're doing, we can begin to understand why.
Find the missing link.
Resistance to change is ultimately because we are, for whatever reason, unable to trust it. There are a lot of potential possibilities as to why, and it’s important to find them out.
Breaking things down into smaller pieces can be helpful when we aren’t sure of the underlying causes of our resistance. Here's an example:
Is the root of our concerns:
In order to accept a change, we must be willing to trust that everything will be okay. What is there within the change that we can accept? What is it that is missing from the change that we need in order to trust it?
We’ve already explored the fear component, which should offer some helpful insight into why we’re reacting the way that we are, but there may be other things that we need in order to say goodbye to what was, in favor of what will be (a schedule or plan, an act of good-faith by another person, a written, signed agreement). Once we know what we need, communicate these things to others.
Accepting something we don't like is a difficult thing, because sometimes we are unable to get the assurances we need, which can have other effects on our behavior (see these posts for more information about dealing with ambiguity, or fear of the unknown during change). Even so, the first steps towards trusting and accepting change is our awareness of how we're reacting, why, and what, if anything, we need.
Find your solace.
One last thing. When change feels difficult, and we are struggling to accept it, friends and those things that bring joy to our lives are important to help keep us grounded.
I’ve written in the past about how certain people and activities can help us, where others can be a hinderance to our sense of support. In order to feel the kind of comfort we need when we need it, having a clear idea of who to go to, as well as who to stay away from when you’re in need of guidance and insights but not advice can be extremely beneficial in helping us transition to difficult changes.
Allowing ourselves to move-on.
It isn’t easy to let go of our fear of control amidst unwanted change, but the sooner we do it, the sooner we are able to move on with our own lives.
Letting go creates a smoother transition to change, and by consciously deciding to do this, we maintain our sense of control in a situation where we might otherwise feel helpless.
I should also note, that even if there's a change in the change itself (reconciliation, job extension, etc.), things likely won't be the same as they were. Letting go of the belief that life can remain static, is the most important thing of all.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a wrap-up of this week’s theme of The 3 Faces of Fear.
“I want to quit. I really want to quit. I’m tired of the way they treat me, they completely disregard all that I’ve done for them, and this is the final straw! Except. What where will I go from here? What if I can’t find a better job that pays as well. What if they don’t have the same flexible hours or other benefits that this job does? I don’t know what to do!”
Sound familiar? How about this?
“I know that I’ve been saying I wanted to buy a house, but it’s a big responsibility! Still, the idea of having a place that’s all my own, with nobody on the other side of a wall waking me up at 3:00 AM is really appealing. And I would really like a yard, and a dog, but I also know that having both of these things takes time and effort. A house is a much better investment than wasting my money away on an apartment though, and I really like the layout and neighborhood of the house I found; it won't stay on the market for long. Still, it’s a BIG commitment. What should I do?”
Both of these examples represent difficult decisions that are founded in a fear of the unknown. It would be easy to decide to leave a bad job situation if we knew what was in store for us elsewhere. It would also be easy to decide to buy a house if we were assured that our financial situation and other aspects of our life would stay the same. Ah, if only we each had our own personal crystal ball…
Of course, when we are anticipating something good in a potential change, there can be a certain excitement with the unknown, where anything can happen. But when stability, financial security, or emotional continuity are at risk, the excitement can easily turn to dread as we look for a sign - any sign - that will point us in ‘the right’ direction.
In the mean time we toil over our options, compare the pros and cons, and definitely walk the tightrope of analysis paralysis. If we plunge off of the tightrope, we become stuck in the mud and are overwhelmed by our choices to the point of stagnation. In some cases, this might feel better than our near obsession with the choices at hand and pulling our hair out over which alternative to pursue.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ways to get through this dilemma in one piece. Here are a few ideas with which to get started:
Expand your view.
Sometimes when we feel stuck, it could be because there are many choices available from which we must choose one. Other times, it may be that we are in hyper-focus mode, honing in on this one problem that we want to resolve. This one question that we desperately need to answer.
By widening our attention to the bigger world around us, we might loosen the grip that this one thing has on our psyche, which may lead to clarity around a preferred choice. Check out the Powers of 10 video for some visual help with this.
Cut the cords to fear and drama.
Fear can have a strong pull, and one of the ways it attracts us into its net is through drama. Drama, after all, involves some type of conflict, and having to make a choice about the future without knowing the outcome can certainly feel conflicting. Now not all difficult choices have to involve drama, but it is easy for us to create drama out of the difficult choices.
Cutting the cords of fear and drama allows us freedom to see our situation in a more objective light. It also opens the way for new information to filter in that otherwise may have been obscured by the veil of fear.
This is not a simple task, dissolving the drama and associated hooks from our lives, as it requires a conscious decision on our part to step-away from the behaviors and people connected to it. Deciding to no longer partake in conversations that fuel the negativity and/or worry. Staying away from those people who feed your fears, seeking instead those people who can provide you with the kind of solace you need.
Breaking free from the bonds of drama can also be incredibly freeing. It is likely that once we've fully committed to eliminating it from our lives, our fear will quickly subside, and we will feel more comfortable and confident in reaching a decision.
Wait and see.
Sometimes when we feel pressed to make a decision, the best thing to do is to step away and take a wait-and-see approach.
In my experience, many of the things that initially seem to be urgent, are self-contrived. It’s not that we create this urgency on purpose, but how we perceive the importance of the decision leads us to believe that we must take action NOW, when, in fact, this may not actually be the case.
If you are contemplating leaving a job that just got worse because of a recent change, what would be the harm in waiting a little while to see how things pan out?
If it’s a move you’re considering, but you aren’t yet convinced that it is a good idea, would it really make that much difference if you were to defer your decision for a week, a month or even longer?
Preserving our sense of control.
I realize the answer to these questions are probably, “it depends”, but asking the questions certainly won’t hurt anything, and, as I am fond of suggesting, asking these things of ourselves helps to put us in the driver’s seat, rather than remaining in the passenger seat of our change.
And that, my friends, is really what it’s all about. The greater sense of control we feel we have over our situation, the more confident we become in making decisions, and the less stressed we feel out of fears, doubts, and uncertainty.
Tomorrow we’ll take a tour of the fear of loss or letting go, and what to do about it.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
All Changevolution Change & Vulnerability Choice & Change Finding Solace Internal/External Change Loop Making Change Stick Mindset Preparing For Change Reactions To Change Reflection Shoulds Smooth Transitions Social Side Of Change Time Tips & Tools Uncertainty
**Please note RSS Feed not compatible with Chrome without an extension.