The old expression, the only constant is change, has some merit to it. We humans do not always do well with change especially if we are not the ones who made the decision to change something.
Yet, we are often met with circumstances changing in our lives both personally and professionally whether we want them to change or not.
How many times have you been met at your workplace with the words… “We’re changing how we’re doing that”? “We’re getting a new software system and you’ll have two weeks to learn it.”
“We are changing that policy, now it’s going to be ….”
How about in your personal life? Do you have kids? Life is constantly changing with kiddos. Little ones may be army crawling one day and upright and getting into everything the next.
Your teen may be kind and cooperative and then one day, they just don’t want to talk. Maybe you have settled into life and routines, only to have a military spouse or partner say we have to move.
The pace of change can be dizzying and it can leave us feeling unsure, unsteady and catch us unaware, or off guard. Many people are still finding their footing after the whirlwind of changes that Covid brought.
One of the reasons change can be so tricky is because we humans thrive on predictability and routine. We all have a brain that says, I don’t really want to have to think about “everything” – can you put some routines in place so I can be on auto pilot some of the time?
What can we do so that we actually thrive during the transitions of our lives and not just white knuckle it through life’s inevitable changes?
Realize it’s the Transition that needs to be managed. The change will likely occur whether you feel ready for it or not. It is your responsibility to manage yourself through the transition. That means engaging actively in a process of reflection. Begin to see yourself as an active participant in the transition, rather than a helpless victim.
Identify what parts have been great in the current situation. Identify also which parts or elements of your current situation have been challenging or difficult. Ask yourself what if any of the good parts can be duplicated or otherwise brought into the new situation? What pieces of the difficult parts can and ought to be left behind because they actually were not beneficial physically, emotionally, mentally or relationally? If the transition is work related, which parts of the situation as it currently is has led to frustration and a lack of productivity, and how can you/ the team/ family be more intentional moving forward to avoid similar patterns or pitfalls?
Take time to grieve any losses that arise as a result of this transition. Maybe you work at a business and they are merging and now you will no longer be in the same location where your favorite Thai restaurant is located. Perhaps some of the workforce is going in one place and the rest another and there are people you won’t get to see much anymore. Much like grieving a death, we often fail to realize that the transition time is often a time of loss and those losses, whether they be related to people, places or something else, need to have a period of grieving to work through them.
Identify and manage any anxiety that is occurring in the period of the unknowns. Some people have an extraordinarily difficult time with unknown aspects of the transition period. They will often fill the gaps of what they don’t know with worst case scenarios. Learning calming techniques as well as challenging your mindset that the new situation could actually be better than what has been, can be extremely helpful.
Lean into safe people to connect with and support one another. Sadly, too often we come to think that change is something we just need to grin and bear and get through, rather than realizing that the transition is a process that we don’t have to go through alone. In too many workplaces, as with too many families, we think we have to silo ourselves off and that we are the only ones feeling the way we are. Reach out to supportive others, especially people who are going through or have gone through similar transitions. If needed, reach out to a life coach or counselor if you feel like you need additional tools, help and support to get through the transition in a way that leaves you feeling better, stronger, and coping well.
When contemplating a change, it is important to consider the elements of the transition period. This is important for adults and children alike. Remember that your kiddos need support and safe people to talk to also to work out what they may be feeling. If you are a business owner, leader or manager, be sure to allow time and space for people to deal with the transition, and be sure to create time and space for staff and team members to have a voice.
Be an active participant in your transition process whatever the circumstances are. Consider that this new situation could be a fresh opportunity to grow, learn, become more resilient and thrive.