Have you heard the expression, “the only constant is change”? I recall hearing that a lot growing up. It may account for why some of us humans have a hard time with change- it happens so frequently and not always when we desire. Some people love change; moving, going to new places, trying out a new job or career field, starting a new hobby, class or friendship. Others are immersed and deeply rooted in the status quo. (Don’t ask me to change/ break out of my routines- I’m comfortable and I know what to expect.)
The way we respond to change and transitions is based on many things like our general nature and temperament, as well as our previous life experiences. Did we have to move often as a kid? Did we love that and see the adventure of it, or did we loathe having to pick up and relocate again? How did we see parents and siblings cope with those kind of changes and transitions?
I see this dynamic play out in the workplaces where I have coached leaders and front line staff. Some people just love the idea of changing things up- “bring it on” is their mantra. They thrive with new systems, creating better ways of doing things, or even collaborating with new people just lights them up.
Then there are those that are very comfortable with the way things currently are. Change and transition is definitely harder for them. Some have shared with me that they just like the feeling of competence and comfort from knowing how things are done around here, and things changing just feels like too much work. For some, it can elicit feelings of uncertainty and even anxiety.
One of the things we know that can help us all cope better with change, is if we pay more attention to the transition pieces.
In other words, many of us both at home and in the workplace, focus on the tangible and physical changes that are occurring, or are in the planning stages. An example might be a military family who has just gotten orders and is now having to relocate. Parents might start all the logistical preparations for the move, finding a new place to live etc.
What often gets left out of the busy logistical planning is the psychological effect for everyone involved with the change that is coming. For example, does a parent take time to stop the planning pieces long enough to sit with their child and inquire about how that child is feeling about leaving their school, friends, sports or other pursuits? How are they feeling about leaving their current life, and what do they know or think about the new area? Are they feeling excited, tense, nervous or anxious or some of all of those? These are the transition pieces to pay attention to. The change may be inevitable. The transition and how it’s dealt with is the part that in the end matters most.
I have seen leaders in organizations move full steam ahead in making desired changes – down to literally moving people’s desks ( without their knowledge) on their lunch break resulting in employees coming back to an empty space where their desk was an hour ago. Making these kind of abrupt decisions without taking into account what people need, what they think or even what ideas they may have, along with not checking in about how they are feeling generally results in poor outcomes when it comes to making changes in the workplace.
Next time you are faced with a change in your life or in the life of someone close to you, remember to identify the transition pieces. Talk about them… ask questions and then really listen to the answers. Respond with care and compassion so that others can more easily get through and thrive rather than just survive a major change.
If you are the one going through a major change or transition you may want to consider the following as a guideline.
§ Make time to check in with yourself about how you are feeling about this upcoming change or transition. Take some “Cave Time” where you just unplug for some thinking time.
§ Identify the emotions you are feeling at this time, and periodically throughout the transition process. Then just sit with those emotions even when they feel “uncomfortable”.
§ Consider what you need in the moment. Do you need to grieve because this change or transition involves a loss? Treat yourself with compassion by caring for yourself during this season of change. Show up for yourself like you’d show up for a friend.
§ Remember to think accurate thoughts and not let your brain become a runaway train with negative thoughts about how bad the new (place, job, city etc.) will be. It is our runaway or ruminating thoughts about worse scenarios that lead us to anxiety or depression. Guard your thoughts and question them if you notice they seem to be negative or worrisome too often. Then ask yourself some questions to help get back on track with thinking accurate thoughts.
§ Be sure you have a good support system throughout your time of transition as you are going through it. Lean into those people that are safe and supportive. We are created to need other humans. You don’t have to get through this suffering silently. Consider who those people are who can help support you in your transition journey.
Since the old adage, “the only constant is change,” seems to encapsulate life for most of us, it pays to be aware and mindful of the transition phase of any change. Tend to yourself and to the emotional component of the change and not just the logistics. You will find that you get through the transition with much more ease and may actually even thrive as a result.