One million air miles, two continents and at least 14 places called “home,” 7 schools, 5 careers, and 1.2 million emails. This is the story of my life, up until now. If someone shared these stats with me and I didn’t know who they belonged to, I’d have said, “Now there’s someone who has no idea what she wants to do and can’t settle down.” And yet, if you ask just about anyone who knows me, they’d say I’m one of the most decisive and stable people they know (or at least I like to think so). I guess I just like change. A LOT. And I happen to be good at it.
Who Moved My Cheese?
Change can be hard, it can be annoying, and often feels threatening. But it doesn’t have to be. Think about a change you are going through right now – maybe it’s a house move, kids leaving for school, or a job change. Even if it’s a change you didn’t initiate, wouldn’t you like it to be easier to handle and maybe even fun? Change can cause stress which manifests itself emotionally, physically and mentally. A certain amount of stress can be good – it actually makes us more productive and creative. Imagine life without deadlines? Most of us wouldn’t get out of our jammies for days, while we binge-watched episodes of True Detective (or maybe that’s just me). When stress gets cranked up high though, it feels pretty crappy and be experienced as strain or even panic. No one wants more strain and especially not panic.
Thriving on Change
So why is it that some people seem to thrive on change while others struggle? The main reason is they have healthy ways to deal with negative stress and are able to move through change faster with less distress. What’s the secret sauce? In workplace change it’s important for leaders to recognize the value of well-planned change and not just jam something in. Oftentimes leaders have high levels of change resilience so it can be easy to overlook the fact that not everyone in the organization is the same.
What can you do as a leader? Get a pulse check on your team, plan change accordingly – for them, and make yourself available to talk to people who need more help or reassurance. What happens when change is coming from above and you don’t know what’s coming yet? It’s good to be authentic and tell them you don’t know either but be careful how you say it, with what tone, what body language. If you said, “We don’t know what the changes will be yet and I’m sure leadership will share information as soon as they can” in a positive tone, that’s very different than shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I don’t know any more than you do.”
It Really is About You, It’s Just Not All About You
But even if change is happening to you, there are lots of things you can do to make it easier to transition. The first step is to recognize that even small changes can be uncomfortable and to cut yourself some slack. Step one accomplished? Now you can focus onsome physical social, or emotional support methods to ease the stress:
Get active. Go for a walk or workout. Make sure you eat well, get plenty of protein and veggies, and drink plenty of water. And I meant it about the cheese or whatever your pleasure food of choice is. Get some and enjoy it. Not mega quantities and don’t put the Doritos feedbag on but give yourself a treat and really savor it. And while we all may crave sugar, carbs, alcohol, and coffee under stress, watch your intake and don’t overdo it. Yeah, I know, someone had to say it.
Stop holding your breath. Remember to breathe, in a deep way, the one that feels like it goes down into your belly. Sit and close your eyes for a few moments, breathe deep, and let your muscles relax. Even 1-2 minutes of breathing deep can make a big difference.
Get Social and I Don’t Mean Facebook. Spend some time with family and friends and make it relaxing or fun. Ask for reassurance from your boss or mentor by asking questions or sharing your concerns or doubts. Give support and assurance to others by sharing the positives of the change. What won’t help? Engaging in rumors and whining to co-workers, neighbors, or peers who have no ability to affect the outcome anyway. And please, please, don’t bash your boss or co-workers on Facebook. You might think it’s ridiculous that I even mention it; I only bring it up because I saw it happen recently.
Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow. If you find you are getting caught in a loop of negativity, try this: Monitor, Interrupt, and Replace. How? Pay attention to your thoughts. Notice if you are stuck in a negative loop, do something to interrupt the thoughts like snap your fingers or shake your hands and wiggle your feet. The interrupt is where the magic is because it helps bring you back to the here and now. When we are caught in a negative thought loop, we are usually making up a story about the past or projecting the future. Once you interrupt the old thoughts, replace the negative thought with a new idea that is more positive and peaceful. Remind yourself of something you love, something funny, or something you are grateful for.
Talk to yourself. Use positive self-talk to help remind yourself that, you really are going to be okay.
Get still. Try a silent breathe-oriented meditation method or download a guided visualization method that takes you to a calm, peaceful place. When you hear someone use the word mindfulness, they really just mean be here, right now and meditation helps us cultivate this. Imagine what would happen if everyone in the world tried being here, now for even a few minutes a day? In the meantime, start right here, with you.
Teams in Transition
When I look at the world around me and many of the teams I’ve worked with over the last two years they seem to have one thing in common: they are in transition, are going to be soon, or just came through one. Change is everywhere. It’s exciting, it’s inevitable, and it’s the reason why in coming months we’ll be making changes to Positive Disruption. Since we’re not ready to let the cat out of the bag yet, we thought we’d provide some tools to help you manage your own changes, right now.
When you think about change, what are your numbers – miles driven, schools attended, marriages, you name it? What are some techniques you’ve used when going through change that have made it easier?