Rapidly evolving technologies, corporate restructuring, learning a new enterprise resource planning system, customers’ increasing bargaining power, signing distribution agreements — these are just a few of the continual changes that impact our daily professional lives. And the list doesn’t end there. While the processes and technology we utilize continue to change at record speed, the majority of us crave consistency and routine. Familiarity is comfortable. But sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zone to succeed. The key is learning how to embrace change.
Bob Miglani, author of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living, offers six tips for making change more bearable:1
1. LET GO OF HOW GOOD IT USED TO BE.
Yes, maybe things really were better “back in the day.” Hanging on to a nostalgic vision of the past, though, does absolutely no good in helping you adapt to the present or the future. Miglani advises letting those feelings go, stating, “Some of the best opportunities in life are presented to us when we open up to change.”
I once worked for a pharmaceutical company that, despite being fairly large, prided itself on its supportive, onebig- happy-family culture. Then the company merged with another pharma company, and the warm feeling of belonging was swept away as quickly as it took for the ink to dry on the merger agreement. Some people adapted and some got out. I was assigned to a brand that had been marketed by the “other” company. It was the best thing for me. I didn’t have time to wallow in the past as I worked to develop relationships with my new colleagues.
We, and the things around us, are always changing. It’s just when the pace of change picks up that we take notice. In fact, change — not statis — is a normal state. Once we accept this basic truth, we position ourselves to deal with change.
I love this quote from actor Michael J. Fox: “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”
3. THINK IN YES’s, NOT IN NO’s.
In times of change, you have a tendency to hit the brakes and control what you can. So much has happened that is beyond your control, that you reason, “Hey, I’m going to control the heck out of what I can and keep added surprises to a minimum.” Being too controlling, however, might make you less productive in your work and unhappy in general. Some caution in your work is good but too much is stifling. Miglani advises, “What helps is to have a mentality where we think more about the possibility than impossibility.”
4. SET NEW GOALS AND GO AFTER THEM.
Of course, the desire to feel like you have some control is natural. And one way to wrest back a feeling of control is to set a goal. Working to achieve that goal then becomes a beacon that guides you through the chaos of change. A meaningful goal restores a sense of purpose and injects energy into your daily activities, preventing you from squandering your time and energy on the latest gossip and heavy-duty overanalysis of your situation.
And be sure to break down any huge, potentially overwhelming goals into a series of smaller goals. Working on something that seems unmanageable is not going to restore a feeling of control; in fact, it might have the opposite effect and enhance feelings of helplessness.
There’s a hike in my area that I like to do once a year. One of its most difficult aspects is that after many hours of going up and down a rolling landscape, you’re faced with the most punishing uphill portion of the hike. If you just focus on getting to the top of that unforgiving hill, it’s easy to get discouraged. I get up that blasted hill by reaching one milestone at a time.
5. FOCUS ON CONTROLLING YOUR ACTIONS.
When reading Miglani’s fifth tip, I’m reminded of the coaches or players who, when asked what their game plan is, say, “We’re just going to play our game.” It may sound cliche, but it’s great advice for the workplace, too. You may be able to exert some control over what your co-workers and boss think and do, but you probably don’t have as much control over these things as you think. Why not put your focus on something you have 100% control of — like your own actions?
6. LET IN FRESH AIR.
Basically, Miglani is cautioning against letting yourself marinate full-time in a negative, uncertain work environment. Reach out to people in your network, get together with friends and family, attend an interesting seminar. Engage in activities that shine some perspective on your situation.
Change is constant. While familiarity is easy, I encourage you to embrace situations that put you outside your comfort zone. I’ll leave you with this quote: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy
- Miglani B. Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living. Oakland, California; Berrett-Koehler Publishers: 2013.
From MENTOR. November 2017;8(11): 8-9.