In these challenging and uncertain times you may be feeling fearful, sad, angry and uncertain about your future, the future of your family and of the planet. You may be feeling there is little or nothing you can do to make the world a better place. I believe there is much each of us can do to be a force for good in the world, and it’s easier than you think. Learning about change, how you respond to it and how to navigate it, are important skills and tools to have in these challenging and tumultuous times.
Based on more than 25 years of consulting and coaching with people and organizations on 5 continents including living and working in conflict zones and managing uncertainty, I’ve developed the Art of Change framework. This framework is a proven model for embracing change whether it involves getting unstuck and moving forward when change is imposed on us, or whether we choose to initiate a change in our beliefs, attitudes and/or behaviors.
The Art of Change is based on the belief that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities. Think of the times in your life when change was thrust upon you; e.g. you were laid off; or when a boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. At that time, you may have felt caught off guard, angry, fearful and uncertain about the future. On reflection, these changes opened you up to a new and better relationship or a position more aligned with your values and talents.
Embracing change enables you to let go of patterns that are no longer serving you and to move forward with confidence, clarity, improved health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace.
The Art of Change framework is a 5-step process for embracing change that uses the metaphor of life as a dance. The steps are:
- Shine the Light –Explore how you respond to change and why
- Choose Your Dance –Identify the transition you want to work on and where you are on your transition journey
- Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps –Commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in
- Practice, Practice, Practice! –Do the work that includes letting go, identifying lessons learned, envisioning the work or relationship of your dreams, taking action, and viewing change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities
- Consciously Share Your Dance with the World –Observe the positive changes in yourself, how others respond to you, and the positive impact you have on your family, friends, communities and workplaces.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will share more about the Art of Change framework and how you can embrace any change with less stress and greater understanding, and at the same time be a positive force for good in the world.
I welcome your thoughts and comments below and appreciate you sharing the article with others.
We are hard-wired to perceive change as a threat. Our primitive brain likes to keep us safe and has enabled humans to survive through time. When our amygdala (part of the brain) detects fear, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This explains why some of us become angry as a result of a change being imposed on us, fearful and wanting to run away from a situation rather than face it, or paralyzed and unable to think clearly or to move forward.
So, how can we reduce our fear of change given this biological reality? Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself provides powerful evidence that our thoughts and perceptions have the power to change the structure of our brains. In other words, if we create new beliefs around change and internalize them, we also create new neural pathways that enable us to respond positively to change rather than view it as a threat. Candace Pert in her landmark book Molecules of Emotion provides strong evidence that our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies.
Given these facts, how can we reduce our fear of change? Here are some proven strategies. We can:
- Understand how we respond to change and why – A simple exercise is to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 related to how you respond to change: “1” being it scares me to death and “10” being I thrive on it. Another way is to spend some time reflecting on the barriers you have towards change and writing them down. A number of barriers to change have been identified in the literature including: becoming paralyzed by fear, procrastinating, blaming others, believing we can’t do something or are not worthy, always focusing on problems rather than solutions, getting stuck in old habits or denying change is happening, and not being willing to put in the effort required to make a change. Ask yourself, What barriers do I have to embracing change in general, and in this particular situation? E.g. changing jobs, leaving an unsatisfying relationship, accepting a new leader in my organization. Notice past patterns in your life.
- Become aware of our beliefs around change – Close your eyes and think about a recent change; one that you didn’t choose but was imposed on you. Examples include: lay-off, separation, relocation. Notice what words come up for you. Write them down. Begin with the stem “Change is”_______ and fill in the blank. Do a brain dump and write down all the words that come up to define what change means to you. Examples are “Change is scary”; “Change is to be avoided at all costs” …
- Try on some new beliefs about change; such as “Change opens me up to new possibilities”, “Embracing change is a creative process”, “Change provides me with an opportunity to learn and grow”. Post one of these positive beliefs where you will see it at least 3 times a day – on your computer, bathroom mirror…and say this belief aloud each time you see it. Do this for 21 to 30 days and observe what you notice.
- Become aware of how we perceive change and replace our negative feelings and emotions with positive and empowering ones. Ariane de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier” identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are: fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to go.” Being aware of which emotion you are feeling and replacing each one with positive and empowering emotions and antidotes are key to learning from and navigating change and dealing with uncertainty. The six change demons and their antidotes are:
||surrender (to not knowing)
||honesty (taking responsibility for our role in situations)
||honor (your dark or shadow side)
- Introduce small changes into your daily routine. Take a different route to work. Eat something different for breakfast. Walk or cycle to work instead of driving. Do this for a month and observe what you notice. Change is like a muscle. The more change you choose in your life, the more flexible you tend to become.
What change demons are your facing? How do you typically respond to change? What strategies will you begin integrating into your life to reduce your fear of change?
I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
What happens when we don’t embrace change?
We keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and remain unsatisfied and unhappy. For example, the person who regularly changes jobs to get ahead and make more money without really understanding what they’re passionate about and not choosing positions aligned with their passions; OR the man or woman who marries 3 or 4 times, attracting similar partners, working through the same issues again and again, and remaining unhappy because they haven’t taken the time between relationships to find who they are and what they truly want.
We expend a lot of energy resisting change. I recall a time a number of years ago when I was working with an international consulting group managing a large project in a developing country. There were ongoing challenges with the funding for the project and I was asked to make budget cuts that I felt were beginning to affect the technical aspects. In addition, although I’ve lived and worked in a number of unstable countries, every time I was in that country it felt like a “powder keg waiting to blow up”. I voiced my concerns to the company President. After a few months of restless nights with my head saying I should stay with the project and my body saying I should resign, I finally resigned. It felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders. Initially I thought “what have I done!”, but soon after when I declared I was returning to domestic consulting , I met a woman who was going into retirement who introduced me to one of her clients at lunch. The next morning I received an email from the head of that organization saying she had 4 projects she thought I would be a good fit for, and which ones would I like to work on!
We feel constantly under stress as our bodies stay in flight, flight or freeze mode trying to keep us safe. We may feel afraid, angry, confused and uncertain in life and at work. Professionally this may look like the inability to focus, make decisions and result in reduced productivity and lack of fulfillment in work and life. Over time this constant stress often negatively impacts our health.
The bottom line is if we don’t learn how to embrace change, over time it negatively impacts both our personal and professional lives.
So how and where do we begin?
Understand how you respond to change. A quick exercise is to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 related to how you typically respond to change; 1 being it scares me to death and 10 being I thrive on it. Another activity is to spend some quiet time answering the question: Why do I fear this change so much and notice what comes up. Journalling your answers is also helpful in understanding and dealing with your emotions.
Realize that you’re not alone. All of us are hard-wired to fear change and to want to stay safe. Knowing that can be of some comfort.
Reach out for support. Share with someone or several people you trust how you’re feeling and why. A strong body of research shows that social support, which includes emotional connection with “… a trusted group or valued individual, has been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological consequences of stress, and may enhance immune function. Social networks, whether formal (such as a church or social club) or informal (meeting with friends) provide a sense of belonging, security, and community.”
Spend regular time in nature. The Japanese have done longitudinal studies which show that spending time in forests reduces our blood pressure, reduces our heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces (i.e. strengthens our immune system).
Practice mindfulness walking meditations at least 3 times a week for 15 to 30 minutes. A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices help us stay present and focus on feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we’re faced with change, it’s important to acknowledge and let the feelings flow through us, rather than resisting them.
When practicing mindfulness walking meditation we feel the ground beneath our feet, the breeze against our face, the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the salty sea air or the aroma of lavender and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience all our senses. Rather than spending a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, or mulling over things that have recently happened, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.
Commit to learning more about how to embrace change. A good place to start is to take the complimentary Transition Journey Quiz – http://pamela-thompson.com/about/ – to learn more about life transitions, where you are on your transition journey and receive additional tips on how to successfully navigate change.
I’d love to hear you from you, your responses to this post, and your experience with the Transition Journey Quiz. Feel free to comment below and to share this post with others.
What if we all viewed change as a creative process that opened us up to new possibilities? Do you think our relationships, workplaces, communities and the world would be different?
Let’s explore this perspective a bit further. Imagine if you were laid off. Instead of feeling angry, anxious and unsure of what to do next, what if you viewed the change as an opportunity to do something new, perhaps launch a new business you’d been thinking about for a few a few years, but had been afraid to start?
What if after a partner left you, you took the time to reflect on the relationship; what worked well and what didn’t? And, you took the time to write down all the lessons learned from the relationship as well as the qualities you wanted in a significant other and in a relationship? For example: someone who makes me laugh, who is a great communicator, someone who is physically active, and who loves being in nature? I did this a number of years ago and within 5 months of doing so my life partner and soul mate showed up who had all of the qualities I had written on my list!
Imagine if you were working in an organization that had a change in leadership, and instead of feeling uncertain and fearful, you viewed the change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I invite you to “try on” this new perspective of viewing change over the next week and notice what you observe. It could be something as small as changing the way you usually respond to a person or situation. I welcome your comments and experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might benefit.
The Creative Living Community respects the power and influence you as a woman have in your day-to-day life. We believe that by sharing the tools to Creative Living* and by working with women to enable them to find peace within themselves, they will in turn be able to build it in their families, communities, workplaces … and ultimately the world. Working with High Achieving Women and enabling them to quiet their busy minds, spend more quality time with their families and friends, find work/life balance, work smart and stay healthy, is a key strategy toward realizing our larger vision of an interconnected global community of women contributing to building peace.
Have you ever sat down and thought about the power and influence you have? I’m not talking about being the CEO of a company of 1000 employees or being a highly paid and sought after speaker, or a best-selling author with thousands of readers, although you may be. I’m talking about you as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, colleague … . In your day-to-day life you interact with many people and have the power to influence them in positive ways.
Have you been in the presence of someone who really makes you feel like you’re important, that you’re being listened to and truly heard? What qualities make this person memorable? Do they look into your eyes, appear grounded and have their attention truly focused on you? Do they act genuinely concerned about your well-being? Are they truly responsive to what you have to say rather than reactive? Do they speak with you from their heart?
When we interact with others from a place of being grounded and from a place of inner peace, rather than thinking about the next thing on our “to do list” or reacting to something someone says, it affects the quality of our relationships and how people “feel” around us. It also affects our productivity, health and well-being and that of others with whom we interact.
* There are seven keys to Creative Living (outlined in the book “Creative Living: Learning to Dance with Life – A Guide for High Achieving Women” currently being written by Pamela Thompson, founder of the Creative Living Community). Integrating the seven keys into your life and cultivating the practices within each one will lead to a life of increased happiness, health, fulfillment and inner peace. The keys to Creative Living are based on the personal experiences of Pam Thompson, her work with clients in the developed and developing world and evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the therapeutic value of the arts.
Are you interested in joining our global community? What piques your interest about this group? Please post your thoughts, comments or reflections below,