COVID-19 has hammered home something we already knew—that change is inevitable and often completely out of our control.
It has also taught us that we have no choice but to accept it—good change, bad change, even change that we didn’t ask for. We can try to fight against it, we can bury our heads in the sand and hope it will all go away, but the sooner we can come around to accepting the reality of the situation, the better off we will be—at work and in personal life. But how? What are the secrets to accepting and embracing change? I’m glad you asked.
Acknowledge the inevitability of change. Appreciate that change is not a project, nor is it temporary. Change is constant. It is a part of life. Admitting this to yourself is the first step towards accepting and embracing it.
Understand that all change is emotional. The strong, often negative emotions we experience during times of dramatic change are also inevitable—and entirely normal. We undergo a rollercoaster of emotions as we travel through the Burning Platform Change Curve—shock, denial, anger, fear and various forms of hopelessness. Before we move up the curve our head can start to understand the change and our hearts can begin to accept it. The anxiety we all felt at various times throughout the last year is a form of fear—and again, this is entirely normal.
What we must do is simply observe the emotional states in which we find ourselves during times of change. Just observe our denial, our anger, our anxiety – without any judgment whatsoever.
We all erect our own personal barriers to change. Identify yours. This is a natural evolutionary protection instinct. We can’t help it. These barriers often appear in the form of negative thoughts, doubts and fears (“But you’ve never done this before”, “You don’t have the skills”, “You will never find another job like that one”, …)
We need to realise that the negative thoughts we have during times of change are not real. They are just thoughts. Stay detached. Watch them, again without judgment, and they will dissipate. Fight with them and they will grow. So, we need to deprive them of the attention that they crave. They are not worthy of your time or energy.
Attitude is everything. It is easy to feel powerless when big change is done to us. But we are not powerless at all, for we are in control of one crucial factor—how we react to the change. This can make all the difference.
Build confidence in your future based on an assessment of your past experience and what makes you special—your key strengths and skills. Hope based on empty wishes is hollow. Hope based on the reality of the strengths that lie within you is real.
Seek help from others. Reaching out to others is not only a normal human emotion, it can be a life saver. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the West, and the single thing that any one of them could have done to save their lives was to open up to someone, to talk, or to ask for help. The Ford Clinic in the States has reduced suicide rates among their patients by more than 80% simply by helping them to open up to family and friends. Asking for help is that powerful.
You can be your own change leader. Even in the darkest of moments, you can be your own change catalyst. You have the power to help yourself. When you find yourself in the Trough of the change curve, by all means sympathise and empathise with yourself. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself; to acknowledge the fact that this change is not something you asked for and yes, may indeed be completely unfair. When you sense that the time is right, in the mirror and ask yourself the question that will put you back in the driving seat. “OK, so what am I going to do about it?” For the power to change lies within very single one of us.
Campbell Macpherson is a sought-after speaker and business adviser on leadership, strategy & change who splits his time between Australia and the UK. His latest book, The Power to Change (Kogan Page 2020) is out now and available from Booktopia