In a previous post I outlined a proven process for embracing change while at the same time being a force for good in the world – http://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/. In this article we will take a deep dive into the first step in this 5-step process: Shine the Light.
In step one of the Art of Change Framework we explore how you respond to change and why.
Reflecting on how you’ve responded to previous changes in your life will provide you with clues as to how you will respond to integrating new beliefs and behaviors into your life, and changing old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
A good place to start is to answer the question How do I typically respond to change on a scale from 1 to 10; 1 being “I thrive on it” and 10 being “It scares me to death”?
Another useful exercise is to reflect on past experiences with life changes and answer the question What have I learned that supports me to adapt and move forward when faced with change?
Barriers to Change/Moving Forward
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. It’s helpful to think about a change that has been recently imposed on you or was in the past. How do you feel about this change? What barriers do you have to embracing it? I invite you to take a few minutes to jot down your responses to these questions.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
M.J. Ryan in her book “Adaptability – How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask for” (2009) notes that the ability to adapt is “the key indicator of success in these turbulent times. It’s the capacity to be flexible and resourceful in the face of ever-changing conditions.”
Aikido masters say that to be successful in life three types of mastery are needed: i) mastery with self; ii) mastery with others; and iii) mastery with change; meaning “the capacity to adapt easily without losing our center – our values, talents and sense of purpose” (Ryan, 2009). How can we learn to be change masters?
How can we learn to recover quickly from change and be adaptable so that when changes are “forced upon us” (e.g. a job loss) or we choose to make a change, we view it as an opportunity rather than a challenge?
There are a number of studies and tools in the literature that provide us with a better understanding of change and how to navigate it successfully.
Maddi and Kobassa (2005) in their book Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws You analyzed data from 400 studies on organizational change and also conducted their own study of AT & T executives during reorganization. They found that those who thrived the most while undergoing organizational change displayed 3Cs: i) Challenge; ii) Control; and iii) Commitment. Challenge – meaning they saw change as an opportunity to learn and grow and were optimistic about the future. Control – meaning they believed that they had choices and could influence their lives and events around them. Rather than worrying about things they could not control, they focused on identifying what they could control and took action on those things. Commitment – meaning they lived their lives passionately and stayed connected to people even when times got tough.
Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Change and Moving Forward
- Change your perspective – View change as an opportunity for self-growth and learning; an opportunity to explore new solutions and ways of doing things; to put on a new “pair of glasses” and see the world differently.
- Slow down and go inside yourself – create some time and space for yourself rather than keeping yourself busy. Set aside time in your schedule for you. Spend at least 30 minutes a day meditating, journaling, walking in nature.
- Get in touch with and acknowledge your feelings rather that pushing them down and not experiencing them; this is important to begin the process of healing from the inside out.
- Express those feelings through drawing, journaling, painting, dancing, etc.
- Express Gratitude regularly – Create a gratitude journal or write down at least 5 things you are grateful for each morning or evening. Research shows that people who express appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis are more optimistic and lead happier lives.
- Believe in Yourself – think of all the positive things you’ve done and accomplished in the past. Recall a particular time you felt really proud of what you’d done and reconnect with the positive feelings you felt at that time.
- Nurture and Take Care of Yourself – make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly; do something special for yourself such as going for a massage, having a bubble bath, buying a new outfit.
- Reach out for support – to a friend, coach or counsellor; surround yourself with people who believe in you and are not judgmental.
- Identify the things you can control when you’re going through change such as your thoughts, stories, and language. (from Ariane de Bonvoisin, The First 30 days)
The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it. This has a huge positive impact on both your personal and professional life and your ability to positively influence others.
I invite you to share your thoughts and perspectives below on any part of this article. Feel free to share it with others.
I believe that humanity is essentially good and that we are all interconnected.
I believe that everything happens for a reason.
The Universe provides me with what I need and Great Spirit is guiding me towards fulfillment.
Nature connects me with my soul.
I believe that life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest and
that I am here to help build peace in the world.
(Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women, p. 6 –
What do you believe?
In a previous post (http://creativelivingcommunity.com/leading-in-uncertain-times-the-power-of-perception/), I shared the power of perception and how it affects our ability to lead effectively in uncertain times. In this post, I will share some lessons learned based on my own beliefs and experiences gleaned from leading and managing in a variety of organizations and cultures on 5 continents.
- We are all the same. We all want to be valued, respected, to feel safe, secure and to belong.
When living and working in Afghanistan six years ago, I was sitting in the rose garden of the Ministry of Public Health eating lunch with one of my female Afghan colleagues when there was a powerful explosion. Within seconds of the huge blast, my Muslim colleague was phoning each of her family members to ensure that they were all safe. I think most of us would have done the same. We all value family and care about those close to us. The explosion was from a number of suicide bombers entering the military hospital across the road. The result was the senseless deaths of a number of Afghan patients and their families, and medical students.
I have enjoyed managing and consulting in a number of culturally diverse and uncertain environments, and believe my effectiveness has been largely due to the belief that we are all the same. When you view everyone through the lens of that belief, you are able to connect with them, and work effectively whether or not you speak their language or have the same cultural background or religion. In Afghanistan using participatory processes, I was able to collaboratively develop/co-create the first strategic plan with the Ministry of Public Health, and have it pass through all the policy layers and be signed off by the Minister within 9 months.
I invite you to experiment tomorrow and try throughout your day to view everyone you see through the lens and belief that “we are all the same”, whether it be a homeless person, a colleague you have a tense relationship with, or a family member you have difficulties relating to. Try this and notice what you notice.
- We are all interconnected.
You may have heard that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, two years later it can result in a tornado in Kansas. The butterfly effect has demonstrated that a small change in one area can result in powerful future outcomes in another. If you as a leader believe in an organizational culture that focuses on people, understanding and collaboration, you have the power to shape and change the organization based on how you treat and respond to people and challenging situations daily. How you communicate with others has an impact throughout the organization and beyond. We all have heard about the disheartened employee who has gone home and kicked his dog or beaten his wife.
I invite you to “try out” this belief and have it in the forefront of your mind when you interact and communicate with others on a daily basis in your workplace, community, and family. Notice how this affects your interactions, the organizational morale and environment.
- Nature connects me with my soul.
Did you know that when you walk in forests, it reduces your blood pressure, reduces your heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system)? Based on longitudinal research, the Japanese have institutionalized forest bathing or forest therapy. In their highly competitive culture, they encourage and support people to regularly visit centers in forests throughout Japan to forest bathe, and they continue to collect powerful longitudinal data on its valuable effects.
I encourage you to spend time in nature for 30 minutes or more at least 3 times a week. When I spend time in nature I feel relaxed, energized, happy and free. My stress is reduced (if I’m having a particularly stressful day). If as leaders we are committed to spending regular time in nature, do you think it would positively impact our effectiveness?
- Life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest.
Based on this belief, I’ve lead an adventurous and full life so far [and hope to continue doing so J ]. I’ve lived and worked in the mountains of northern Colombia with peasant farmers in the late 80s when Pablo Escobar was “running around” and the Medellin Cartel was in full swing. I’ve lived and worked in Kabul, Afghanistan for 13 months from October 2010 to November 2011 (a volatile and uncertain time), and managed large multi-stakeholder projects in Pakistan and Nigeria where corruption is rampant and violence can erupt at any time. When I don’t have adventure in my life I get restless and feel unfulfilled, and I either seek out adventure or it serendipitously comes my way. Similarly, if contribution and making a positive difference in the world is one of your core values and you work in an organization that is “all about the money”, over time you will likely feel unhappy and unfulfilled. This will affect your personal and your work life.
I encourage you to identify your core beliefs and what is most important to you, and then begin living them everyday.
I welcome your comments and experiences below. What lessons have you learned from leading in uncertain times? Which lessons above do you resonate with? Appreciate you sharing the post with others.
 For more about core values and why they are important: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/