“Change is the only constant in life.” – Heraclitus
Everything around us is constantly changing. The choice we have is whether we want to embrace that change and use it to our advantage, or be carried along by it – not sure where we are going or where we will end up. I prefer to embrace it and have some control.
On the surface, change can appear positive, opening up new opportunities, providing us with unexpected positive outcomes, or adding variety and spice to our lives.
Or it can appear negative, creating fear and uncertainty due to its unpredictability or seeming unfairness or the risks or losses that it brings.
The truth is we can’t always control change – much as we might like to, but in embracing it, we have the chance to make the best of it – regardless of whether it presents itself as a positive or negative change.
Change, good or bad, gives us the opportunity to:
- Bring to the fore skills and attributes we possess that we weren’t necessarily aware of
- Learn new skills and ways of adapting
- Experience new circumstances and situations that take us into unchartered waters
Change is what got us where we are today – it honed our current skills, developed resilience in us and gave us experiences to draw on. If we embrace change we allow it to offer us these same rewards, but in an evolving form.
If we think of our lives as being like a journey, the more changes we confront and embrace, the more we gain from the journey helping us become more rounded and grounded.
John Augustus Shedd wrote in 1928 ” A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. The same is true for us and change comes when we leave our harbours and experience the adventures of life.
Resisting change is refusing to leave the harbour – it limits us and is not what we were designed for. In order to embrace change in just 10 minutes there are four steps we can follow:
Step 1. Learn to control what you can and release what you cannot.
Often when change presents itself, it is not the change that provides the benefit or the punishment, its how we react to that change.
In my book Ten Minute Tactics we take about the model introduced by Jack Cranfield, Event + Response = Outcome
With this formula we see that it is our response to an event, and not the event itself, that determines the outcome we experience.
The event is not necessarily something we can control other than through our reaction to it – hence we release the event (this means accepting it for what it is rather than wishing we could change it or trying to close a gate when the horse has already bolted).
Having accepted the event for what it is, we can choose how we respond to it – this is something we can control – allowing us to shape the outcome to something more positive and desirable – if not immediately, at least in the future.
In my book we take this model a step further and consider the Emotional, Rational and Physical responses as well, which helps us to take finer control of the desired outcome.
Our emotional response is the more immediate knee jerk reaction to an event. If we can follow this through with a rational response (using our head) we can better manage it, helping provide a sense of perspective, so that the physical response that follows is more likely to contribute to a positive outcome.
Step 2 – look for the bright spots.
This means looking for the positives that exist even in the darkest situation – these represent your way out – the light at the end of the tunnel if you like. Dark situations bring with them gifts. There is an old proverb that says “good judgement comes from bad experience”, which reminds me of the parable about the donkey and the well.
One day, a donkey fell into a well. The animal cried and whined for hours while his owner tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the farmer decided that since the animal was old, and the well was dry and needed to be covered up anyway, he’d just bury the donkey right there. He got a shovel and started filling in the pit. The donkey kept up its wailing, but then fell silent. After an hour of furious shovelling, the farmer paused to rest. To his amazement, he saw his old donkey jump out of the well and trot away!
At first, when the donkey realized what was happening, he cried even more piteously. But then the wise animal hit on a plan. As each spadeful of dirt hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up on the growing mound of earth. Eventually, the mound grew high enough for him to jump out of the well.
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. We can get out of the deepest holes by not stopping and never giving up. Just shake it off and take a step up.
When faced with a challenging situation or change, it can be great to spend a few moments reflecting on where these bright spots exist.
You can create an empowering list of potential positives if you ask yourself the following questions:
- What is working or good about this situation?
- What could I build on or improve to give me a better outcome here?
- How can I use the experience gained here in other areas to help me?
Step 3 – Harness the power of pretending
Think about the word pre-tend
Pre is something that comes before
And tend means to regularly or frequently behave in a particular way or have a certain characteristic or to be liable to possess or display a particular characteristic or move in a particular direction.
When you take on behaviours, thoughts and actions before they are real, you set yourself up for making these characteristics or behaviours real in the future.
When change takes you out of your comfort zone this can be a positive. It gives you a chance to stretch yourself and increase both the size and scope of your comfort zone helping you become more competent and rounded. Highly successful and capable people are often that way because change forced them into it. They weren’t born that way – but circumstances forced them to stretch their comfort zone to the extent of their current capability.
When stretching our comfort zone it can help to act (or pretend if you like) as if we have the capability we are trying to develop. Walk that way, talk that way, dress that way – all of which will help you to act that way, and in turn, become that way.
Amy Cuddy, the Harvard Business School social psychologist, showed us that adopting a powerful posture can affect our whole body chemistry changing how we think and feel about ourselves. Even if we don’t feel confident, or happy, if we act it, the real feelings will come,
Step 4 – Acknowledge your fear – but don’t be controlled by it.
Negative changes can be unsettling, and in some cases downright frightening. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel about the change – but don’t let this control you. In her famous book Feel the fear and do it anyway, Susan Jeffers states “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness”
Steps 1 -3 give you the tools to push through the fear factor and help you to embrace change and draw the positives from this. As you practice these steps, you will find that what at first you feared, doesn’t actually materialise.
I love the acronym that FEAR makes
So there you have it – four simple steps to embracing change – that you can practice in just 10 minutes.
Click here … To complete the Adapting to Change Ten Minute Tactic you can use when confronting change, to help you apply these four steps.