Change in our lives can be something we consciously choose or something that is in some way thrust upon us. You’ve likely experienced both types of change and discovered that whichever way it comes, change always poses challenges. Yes, even the things we choose to invite into our lives that require change can be uncomfortable (at first) and difficult to adjust to.
In fact, it’s a natural human response to just resist change. Our brains are wired to keep us alive and to be efficient; two things that the process of change works completely against.
We all struggle with change because initially we cannot be on autopilot as we used to. Doing different things, even just driving to a different workplace, requires more cognitive effort. Having to be more alert and less often on autopilot is tiring and you’ll feel it. Change almost always signifies an end as much as it does a new beginning and dealing with that sense of loss can also be confronting. In terms of the bigger picture, change also interferes with our sense of self. Experiencing large changes, especially close together, can send you into a mini identity crisis. You don’t feel like yourself but you don’t feel comfortable in the new you, so to speak.
As challenging as change is for all of us, it’s also inevitable and very much a normal part of life(although it may not feel normal). So you’ll likely agree that it’s worth building your change adaptation skills. From my personal experience of much change within my own life and through watching clients navigate the change process, I’ve established a change management strategy that you can implement with any change situation.
Here’s 6 approaches to better manage change. Ideally, you would implement all of them, but just start with one at a time to focus on for maybe a week or two.
Accept it’s a challenging time and it’s ok to feel a mix of emotions
We established that change is challenging for all of us. So taking that a step further, you need to accept there’s nothing wrong with you. Everyone is challenged by change. So when you inevitably experience thoughts along the lines of “I’m not managing this very well, there’s something I’m not good at” etc. you can remind yourself of this truth. There is in fact nothing wrong with you. This is an adjustment phase and you are navigating it.A variety of emotions can come up during the change phase, but if you expect them to show up, you’re less concerned when they do. You may experience feelings of doubt, feeling just not like yourself and most likely you will experience stress.
If you are experiencing or creating major changes in your life and/or business, then you need to simplify things. This is one of the best techniques to apply, with immediate results. Look at everything that you have on your to-do list, goals and responsibilities and decide which things you can delay(push your deadline back), delegate or delete altogether. You can’t do it all while navigating the change process, as this will only exacerbate the stress and overwhelm. Simplify by reducing responsibilities.
Allow more time
Most of us would prefer that we have a certain established amount of time and at the end of that time, the change process is complete. All nice and neat and predictable. Mostly we just want it to take as little as time as possible. I warn against giving into these thoughts as they completely oppose the process of change. You need to allow more time for this process that you would otherwise anticipate or expect for any challenge. Creating or accepting change takes time. And there is no way to speed this process up. Be patient with yourself and get the support you need to keep you moving forward.
Expect to fall off track
Change is not a straight line from one way of being to another. If you graphed it it’d probably be a zigzag. You cope and adjust to the new habit or situation quite well for a while, but then you “regress” back to the old way of doing or being. This is a normal part of the process. But often this is when we all feel like we’ve failed. This is just the beginning. You need to look at change as a series of getting on track and falling off… or if you prefer this analogy, getting back on your horse, time and time again. Noone decides to change and does it in one decision! We all make the decision to change over and over again as we consciously create a new path or habit for ourselves. Expect that you’ll go back and forth for some time between maintaining the change and then not.
Keep or create core rituals
The change process by its nature throws into dissarray many aspects of our lives. It often can feel like we have lost our point of reference, our home base. I suggest that you make a list of 3 core rituals that you will continue to do or start doing, that make you feel more anchored. Regular activities that are familiar and enjoyable can create a sense of comfort and control, even if all around you feels very different. Keep it simple. Your rituals could be meditation, journalling, exercise, lighting a candle, seeing a movie each week, chatting with a good friend. Whatever works for you. It needs to be enjoyable and some activity you’d like to keep doing at least once a week if not more, to create a ritual.
Create support systems
Moving through change will require more time and energy from you. It can be unsettling, frustrating and tiring. On the flip side, when you do see progress, it will give you a boost of energy and hope. So you can see how it might be a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times. It’s important to therefore have your own back. Work with yourself and not against yourself by becoming aware of any negative thoughts about your situation. Remind yourself that this is a process and will take time. Having your own back means supporting yourself as much as you would support a good friend in their time of need. Give yourself the things you need to rejuvenate your energy and write our any negative thoughts that come up.
I suggest also seeking out support from others as you move through the change process. Talk with a good friend about it, engage with your faith/higher power, read personal development blogs or consider hiring a coach.
I hope you will consider implementing these tips when you find yourself on your next change journey. Being able to confidently navigate change in our lives is a practical and essential skill in being able to create new things for ourselves and our business. So the benefits will show up now and in the future.