Make Change, or Change will get you

I’ve always been fascinated by change and how people react to change. In today’s crazy world the only constant seems to be change from the international events we see on the news all the way down to how we live.

Change can be seen on one of two ways: The first is that change is a bad thing; it’s scary, a place where the future cannot be predicted, where you are not sure where your place in the world might be. The other is that change is a good thing; it’s a chance to try new things, to move forward and make things better.

The way you think about change will determine your reaction to it and your behavior associated with it. Whether you find change scary or you embrace change, read on, as in this series of articles I will be looking at change and how we can actively prepare for it.

By understanding change, you will be able to be prepared for it. By being prepared for change you will become empowered and by becoming empowered you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that change brings.

(Preparedness + Empowerment = Opportunity)

I have studied the process of change and I have surmised that change happens in two ways:

  • You make change
  • Change makes you

So you are always in control of change, even when outside factors seem to be causing the change, you are always able to control your reaction to it.

Now I will look at life transitions. Succeeding is Believing. A Life Transition Change is defined as a change in one of the following: your role, your relationships, your routines, your assumptions about yourself or the world.

Descriptions of these aspects of significant events/transitions, as defined by Schlossberg some years ago are:

  • Change in role New set of responsibilities (job promotion, career change, new baby etc)
  • Change in relationship Getting a new job means new co-workers; being a new parent puts one in contact with new people
  • Change of routine A new job requires some overtime, which affects one’s routine; a new baby alters one’s sleeping hours
  • Assumptions about yourself or the world Changed career; took on a challenge and succeeded, recognized one’s own strengths

If a change occurs and involves one of these four changes then this is considered a minor transition and most people can adapt to this change quite easily. Maybe you should take a digital sabbatical. It’s all up to you. One example might be that when you come across some roadworks it takes you longer to get to work, so you have to change your routine to accommodate the longer journey times.

If the change covers 2 or 3 of the areas above then this can be seen as a major/minor transition depending on your ability to cope with change. For example, you join a new team at work due to restructuring and this means your relationships change as you need to form new relationships with your new team, consequently your role may change as you adapt to the new team’s working style.

A major transition would involve all four areas identified here. For example, you have been promoted to manager of your team at work and, as a result, you have a new role, you dress accordingly, you build a new manager-team member relationship with co-workers, a new routine and your perception of yourself changes with your new position.

Similar transitions can affect people differently. How you handle your transition will depend on your self-esteem, confidence, attitude/outlook, coping ability, preparedness, and the degree of your ability to deal with change. See also this post on the $100K Trigger Finger.

For example, retirement is a major trauma for someone who is unprepared for and not good with change, but it is a minor adjustment for someone who is better prepared and more adept at dealing with change. Most important, however, is to recognize that whether a transition is a major or minor one, it will still take time for you to adjust. Major transitions for some people can take anywhere from six months to one year.

If you are going through one of these major life transitions and you are feeling stressed, unhappy, upset, scared, nervous or even angry, then a coach may be helpful for you to take control of your perception of change and come up with an action plan on how to deal with it. Remember the two ways you can deal with change:

1 – You make change
2 – Change makes you

So take the first step and make change before change makes you!