I was recently asked by one of the largest international hotel brands in the world to produce a presentation on adapting to change to present at their upcoming international Leadership Conference. I’ve mentioned the topic as I’ve presented to groups over the last two weeks and as I’ve interacted with other business executives and it’s made me realize how important this topic is and how much it is needed.
As you’ve noticed, I chose the title Making Change in an Apple Pay World. The reason is that, in years gone by we used to have to learn the value of hard currency and do the math every time we gave it to someone so that we knew how much change we were to receive. Then came credit and debit cards and the charge was automatic and we didn’t have to think about making change. Of course, the latest in the evolution of exchanging value is Apple Pay and others like it. Apple Pay is even easier to use than credit and debit cards and it requires no thinking to make change. So, I use this as an illustration that adapting to change can become easy and automatic if you know the secrets to how we humans are actually made to easily accept change. We do it every day, because “the only constant is change”. Most change takes place outside of our awareness; Basinreboot our cells in our bodies are constantly being replaced so that somewhere between every 7-10 years we have a “new” body, our thoughts and beliefs change, businesses constantly change to keep up with, or stay ahead of, their competition, etc.
If we are made to easily accept change, then what causes us to resist and fight change? A psychologist that’s famous for pioneering in the field of Family Therapy, Virginia Satir, said this, “Most people think the will to survive is the strongest instinct in human beings, but it isn’t. The strongest instinct is to keep things familiar.” When change is happening, or is thought to be coming, fear of what the change will bring causes us to hold onto the familiar, even if we really don’t like our current situation. It’s as if we have this internal “crystal ball” and are able to see what will happen after the change takes place. Because of the fear associated with change, the “crystal ball” seems to reveal many frightening things. I believe it was another psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, that said, “80% of what we fear never happens”. We create imaginary scenarios in our minds of the future, which doesn’t exist right now. Even if the situation is similar to a past event it doesn’t mean it will have the same result. Things are always different and you have the ability to make the outcome different. Is it fair to say that, if you’ve experienced something similar before, that should make you wiser and more competent in working through this situation? If this is an entirely new situation of change, then you have four choices; Flee it, Fear it, Fight it, or Face it. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the details of each of those. I will say this, only one of those four choices has a positive outcome.
Of course in the presentation I outline a wealth of ways to easily learn to adapt to change. What are a couple of things you can do, right now, to help yourself and others through change?
1) I recently wrote myself a note at 2:00 in the morning. As I wrote the note in the dim blue light being given off from my refrigerator, I tried three different pens. The first two seemed to be out of ink and weren’t showing up on the paper, so I finally used a big black magic marker. To my surprise the next morning, when everything was fully lit, I looked at the paper I had written on and found three attempts of writing. You see, I could only see the black ink because I was looking at it in the wrong light. This goes back to controlling the “crystal ball” in your imagination. Taking a step back from the situation and objectively looking at it can cast a new “light” on it. Talking with an experienced business coach can do wonders as they have no emotional investment to interfere with their judgement. For instance, I had a client that was considering changing jobs. Of course, there was the usual fear and trepidation of making the change from a job they had held for several years and the “security” they perceived it to have to a company where there were a lot of unknowns. The change was a big concern. Also, they really liked the perks at their current job, especially working from home two days per week. The potential job offered more money and it was more challenging, two of the things this person was seeking, but there was no apparent ability to work from home. This person was afraid this change would interrupt the freedom they had grown accustomed to and began imagining all the negative possibilities that might accompany the change. Finally, after weighing all the factors, the person set the fear of change aside and took the new job. Once there for only a few weeks, many wonderfully unexpected things began to happen, including finding out that they could work from home, just as they had done before. The new job has proven to be nothing like what they had imagined!
2) Understanding your Identity versus your Roles. Most of us in the Western culture live primarily in the roles we play in life. We have become what we do and have forgotten who we are. Because of this, change becomes frightening. Think about it. If you are what you do in your job and change is happening in your job, then you believe that your company is changing you! This is why so many people go into depression when they lose their job, even if it wasn’t because of anything related to them. Some have let the role they play as an employee become their Identity so much that, when they retire, they have nothing left to live for and die. Before I leave this topic, I want to mention Anthony Robbins and his 6 Human Needs. Two of those needs he discusses are Stability and Variety. Tony says we need both of those and at the same time. What I haven’t ever heard him say is how or why that is possible. Here’s the answer: Your Identity, who you are at your core, is made up of all your beliefs and values and it needs to feel safe, stable, and protected. Your roles are flexible, fluid and actually need change. When you learn to separate your Identity from your Roles, an amazing transformation can take place that allows you to accept change much more easily! There is a vast amount more information to be covered on the Identity/Role separation, so please feel free to contact me if you have questions.