Friday, May 8, 2009

How well do you manage change in your life? by Robin Jones

It's an important question, as practically every philosopher in history has pointed out, because change is the only constant in life; it's the one thing we can really count on.

And as there are so many circumstances out there in the world we can't control, it's worth taking a good hard look at how you manage the one common denominator in the midst of your perpetually variable life: you.

In this post I'll outline some things you can do to face change head on and meet it with strength, courage, and grace.

For our purposes, let's put the wide variety of changes you experience in your life into two categories: those you choose to make, such as moving across the country, starting a new career, ending/beginning a relationship, and those you don't choose, such as illness in yourself or a loved one, getting laid off or fired, ending/beginning a relationship.

What's true in both types, is that to achieve the outcome you want, you must meet both with full awareness, courage, and faith that it will turn out for the best. In other words, you have to show up. To do that most effectively, consider the following:

1. Clarify your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to the change

I lead a workshop I designed in corporations called Managing Change. Instead of presenting the participants with a prepackaged diagram describing the cycle of change, we create one together, based on their actual life experiences in dealing with changes.

The first thing I have them do is look at some of the changes they are currently moving through, and together we make lists of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This allows them to get in touch with the nature of how they're taking charge of the situation, how they're reacting, and to notice themselves objectively, without judgment.

If you find yourself lost in the storm of the events (and sometimes chaos) around you, take some time for self reflection to understand what you think and feel and to take stock of your actions.

2. Understand the natural cycle of change

In the workshop, participants create a sequence of five or six phases of change. What's interesting is that every time I've worked through this with groups, there are subtle differences, but essentially, they all come up with the same things. Here's what the cycle looks like: 1. Realization/the Unknown: whether this is a change you've chosen or not, there's almost always a degree of fear or discomfort when beginning the process of moving into the unknown.

2. Contemplation: during this phase, much of your time and energy is spent focused on how you got here, why this change is occurring, and what your options are. The more you can let go of fear or confusion, the better prepared you'll be to handle the change.

3. Planning: this is where you weigh your options, start to make decisions about what actions to take, and what you want the outcome to be.

4. Implementation: this is putting the plan into action. If you've given careful consideration to all your options and you're clear on what you want, you should feel a great deal of strength and conviction here. Inaction because of second-guessing can be detrimental.

5. Outcomes: now you start seeing the results of your actions and stay aware of yourself and situation at all times. It's critical that you keep evaluating and adjusting in order to stay on track.
6. Integration: the final phase of the change cycle is the easiest and most organic. Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, you see your learning and growth most powerfully. You're not the same person that began the process and you live in a larger world for having gone through it.What's important to note about this cycle is that it's happening whether you know it or not. By becoming aware of the cycle and what phase you're in at any given time, you allow yourself to make your choices based on the best possible outcome. Where we get into trouble in life is when we make choices by default, or worse, simply allow them to be made for us.

3. Let the universe polish you into a jewel

Thomas Carlyle said, "Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with."

There's a simple question to ask yourself during the process of change to keep you on track. "When I look back on this, who do I want to have been and how do I want to have acted?"

Write your answer in the form of a mission statement for moving through the change: two or three concise sentences that clarify the question. Make it a reflection of the person you strive to be, of the jewel you're becoming as you're being polished.

4. Learn to love the process of change

Some changes you'll never love. The man who becomes the caregiver for his mother as she enters Alzheimer's disease is obviously a different story than the woman who wins the lottery.

But you can learn to love the process of change if not the change itself. This is a topic for an entire book, but the nutshell version is getting to a deeper, perhaps spiritual understanding that the world is what it is, beyond the insignificance of our thoughts and emotions. It's a matter of adopting the serenity prayer: "(God), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Whether you believe in a higher power or not, learning to love the process of change is about giving up control and allowing what will be to be.

The fact is, you're moving through change every moment of your existence: some of it minor, some massive. The degree to which you can stay focused on your sense of strength and grace throughout will determine your level of peace and satisfaction as you integrate it into your life.

Wishing you much success,

Robin Jones works with coaches, consultants, and other independent service professionals who are struggling to attract enough business, showing them how to get new clients easily and consistently for the lifetime of their business. Interested? Check him out at [Blogger's note: he's also my coach, and he's AMAZING!]

No comments:

Post a Comment