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Hate Change? Here’s How to Thrive on It
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
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Change has a bum rap. For many of us, change is stressful, scary, or just plain unpleasant. What if change isn’t the problem? We may not be able to control whether we experience change, but we can control our mindset and actions regarding change.

Of course, you cannot help but feel aversion toward change when you don’t understand its dynamics. However, armed with facts and tools, you can be someone who says, “I thrive on change!”

Case in point: Takita is a 30 year-old salesperson in a retail store. The customer base has changed dramatically in the last few years, with an upsurge of 25- to 40-year-old customers replacing their former clientele of older women. Takita says, “It took me quite awhile to adapt to the buying habits of the newer customers. Then, I began to enjoy them much more. They are very interactive, curious, and knowledgeable. It is a very different sales process now for me. I am a partner to their interests, not just an expert.”

Similarly, Thomasine runs a project team in Barcelona that makes software for an American-based corporation. She has had to assimilate into the virtual U.S. software development culture. While she has found it to be very refreshing, it has been difficult to feel comfortable. “I gave up feeling like I understood these people from Raleigh and New Hampshire. Their way of doing business is so much more informal and fast-paced than our style. That does not mean we are right or wrong, it just is different. Once I could see that I had to adapt, I was less stressed,” says Thomasine.

Resistance to Change 

To thrive on change, first we need to understand resistance to change. Here are three aspects of a change-resistant mind: 

  1. “I don’t want this to be or to happen.” A “don’t want to” attitude is common, but it’s not effective for moving forward. To make a change work for you, learn to respond with willingness, open-mindedness, and genuine interest.

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  2. “I want this, but I want it to turn out in this specific way.” In this case, there is interest in the change, but only if it turns out your way. Often, we have little or no control about whether change will happen. However, we can control our attitude and have influence by joining in the process to work toward the best outcome.

  3. “I am confused by it all and I withdraw so I don’t have to work to understand and engage.” This is the freeze aspect of fight-flight-freeze. When we freeze, we take no action; instead, we dither. It is better to take a stand, engage, and see what unfolds than to wait until your opportunity to have an influence passes.

Tools to Build a Thriving Mindset 

Here are some tools to help you build a mindset that is open to change. 

Mindful Awareness: Mindfulness is a highly useful toolkit that includes awareness of yourself and others. With mindfulness, we become aware of our interior responses, including feelings, physical responses, and mental reactions. We also tune in to the responses of others by asking what they’re feeling or thinking or by being empathetic.

Focus, Attention, and At-Will Relaxation: Human beings are capable of concentrating on the task at hand. But we’re also easily distracted. Here are three tools for training your focus:

  1. Lift Off and Place: When you have to move your focus from one task to another, do so consciously and intentionally. When you need to move from working on a spreadsheet to attending a meeting, try taking a moment to consciously bookmark your spreadsheet task and shift your mind toward the focus of the meeting.

  2. Short-Leash Approach to Attention: Think about what it takes to train a puppy. With the puppy, you must use a short leash. The same is true with training the mind to stay on one task without letting it get distracted by email or the colleague who is talking with your cubemate about Downton Abbey. Be ruthless with yourself. Stick to the task at hand by sharply pulling your attention back each time it wanders.

  3. Relaxation-at-Will: We are all capable of finding moments of calm to relax. Ideally, we would take 20 minutes of deep relaxation using a time-tested method like the Benson Relaxation Response. However, we are more likely to take two minutes to calm down after a tough meeting or a minute between tasks to breathe deeply to energize and refresh our minds and bodies. Try it. Even a minute makes a difference.

Anyone can master these tools. They are enjoyable, engaging, and supremely beneficial. Or, you can resist, fight, be full of distress, and feel impotent in the face of change. The choice is yours.

About the Author

Elad Levinson is an expert in applying neuroscience and cognitive sciences to leadership effectiveness, and has more than 40 years’ experience in leadership roles in various organizations. He held several senior management positions at Agilent Technologies, ICANN, and Stanford University. Elad is currently a senior adviser at 4128 Associates, and the head instructor for Praxis You’s Thriving on Change. Be sure to check out Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader's Toolkit. This is a great resource created by Elad for today's leaders.

 

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