“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill
Change. We all have to deal with it. Little changes. Big change. Planned and unplanned. Internal and external. Personal and corporate.
When we address change in a regular manner, we gain confidence in our ability to deal with change in a positive manner. Mentoring my children and staff as they address change has also allowed me to reflect on how I have dealt with change in the past.
I haven’t always dealt with change in the best way possible, but one thing I have learned as that change solutions are progressive. In many cases, what seemed like an overwhelming challenge years ago, today seems like a much more minor issue – still to be dealt with, but years of experience (both good and bad) have given me stronger coping skills. At the time of the initial challenge, it seemed like “the sky was falling”. Today, I have learned how to put into practice the lessons that I have learned over the years.
Here are some of the skills that I have developed:
1. Be realistic. Change does happen. It has happened to me and it will happen to you. How we accept and deal with it is key.
2. See the big picture – preferably in advance. There are times that change is upon us, through no fault of our own. Budget cuts at the office, end of a contract, a business division is being moved to another city, etc. Adjusting for change means that we need to keep our eyes on the milieu around us. How is the economic climate impacting our business? Are sales meeting projections? What are the outside factors – political, economic, financial and others, that may force change upon you? Stay attuned to these and other external factors whenever possible.
3. Move out of your comfort zone. Change stretches us. Initially, it can feel like it is stretching us to the breaking point, but with the right support structure built into our personal network, it won’t. When we stay in our comfort zone we miss other opportunities for personal growth, new opportunities and the ability to rise to new heights. New opportunities may lead to new income streams, new business and personal friends, new views on situations around us.
4. Seek advice. There likely isn’t a single solution to the change that you are facing. There are likely a number of different parts that make up the solution and it’s your task to find all the pieces. Seek out the advice of those who know you best and can provide the appropriate feedback. Ask your spouse, friends and business colleagues or pastor. You need to be prepared to hear a range of insights that you may feel challenged by, but that’s okay. Ruminate on the observations as you prepare for the future.
5. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Stepping out may reduce some change induced stress but it may be replaced by other opportunities. Over the years I moved my family to different cities – even different countries – for academic and career related opportunities. My wife and I felt bad about the possible impact on our children and discussed this with them while in their teens. Their reaction was surprisingly positive as they felt they could embrace new situations and that had given them the wherewithal to seek opportunities wherever they may be.
6. Embrace change. In my most recent life change I sought out alternate opportunities. What was my skill set and how could that be applied to other opportunities? I also love to read. While I’m a fast reader I read a lot of work material in my previous position and didn’t have a lot of time to read the topics I wanted. I set a goal of reading for 30 minutes a day on other topics; fiction, topics that came up in day-to-day conversation, in newspaper and online stories that I was reading, and so on. It’s been amazing and gratifying to expand my knowledge base.
7. Look for opportunity. Is there a silver lining to the change we are currently facing? I’ve always worked for someone else. When my position was eliminated due to an economic downturn and the consequential budget issues, I followed the advice above and took my skills and applied them to consulting. I now have contracts with a variety of organizations, work from home and find I enjoy my work life in ways that I haven’t in years. This isn’t for everyone, but it works for me.
There is no simple or single solution to facing change but, in following Churchill’s advice, we can continue to improve. Knowing that change will impact all of us is a good first step. Taking steps to embrace change is a good second step.
“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.” — Reinhold Niebuhr