Change happens. No big insight there. Change happens all the time. Nothing new there. Change happens. Everyone knows that.
Yes, everyone knows that change happens, and that it happens all the time. And yet all too often, we lose sight of that fact and its implications. Today’s post focuses on what “change happens” means to you, and how you might approach change differently in the future. We’ll briefly look at different responses to changes that happen, and the consequences of them. And, we’ll look at how the acknowledgement that change happens can lead you to more successful outcomes.
“There Are Changes I Avoid”
Not every change has to be embraced. In fact, in today’s ever-changing environment, I encourage my clients to avoid any change that is not essential. But that is the tricky part. What is an essential change?
Essential changes are those that will have a significant impact–positive or negative–on your future. They may be changes that you have the option of initiating, changes you have the option of participating in, or they may be changes that impose themselves on you. What is important is the effect the change will have on your life whether or not you elect to participate in it.
Let’s look first at avoiding the changes that you have the option of participating in. There are a myriad of examples to draw from. For example, I met with someone the other day who is bemoaning the pending demise of the Blackberry telephone. He had chosen to avoid the global transition from Blackberry to smart phones; and he was trying to “negotiate” how he will move forward with communication in a future world without his Blackberry. As another example, let’s look at the world of American politics today. The number of people–from national politicians to your friends and neighbors and possibly even you–who are avoiding becoming involved in this year’s presidential election is staggering.
What about the changes that impose themselves on you? Here we can again call on the presidential election…and the re-engagement of so many who feel disenfranchised, having avoided adapting to changes in our demography, socio-economic disparities, and cultural mores for decades. We can also look at the very personal level. it is likely that you have avoided some medical issue that has arisen in your life. “I don’t have time for a cold.” “I don’t know what that pain in my side is; let me wait a week and see if it will go away.”
It is also important to know the difference between the two. I spent years when I was younger avoiding “coming out.” I acted as if being gay was a choice that I could make, a choice that I was drawn to, but that I could avoid. It isn’t; it is a part of who I have been since the day I was born. Once this change in awareness happened, my path forward became clear. Don’t confuse those things that you can chose whether or not to participate in with those changes that impose themselves on you.
The bottom line is, we tend to avoid changes that are uncomfortable to us. But, changes happen, whether or not we attempt to avoid them. There will be something after the smart phone. There will be a new president. There will be continuing change in America’s demography, economics, and cultural mores. Our bodies will continue to change. All of these changes are essential to pay attention to; each of them will have a significant impact–positive or negative–on each of us.
Avoidance is the equivalent of denial. It may be denial of the change, or it may be denial of the change’s impact on you; it really doesn’t matter. Avoiding a change, denying that it is happening, does not mean that it will go away, or that it will pass over you. It only means that you are allowing yourself to become victim to it.
“There Are Changes I Delay Acting On”
Delaying does sometimes make good sense. Not every new technology that enters the marketplace will take root. For example, you may not want to be first in line for the first product to replace the smart phone; you may not want to purchase the first commercially available self-driving car.
But all too often, “delaying” is another word for avoiding or denying. I once worked with a client that continued operating in a mainframe computer environment long after the world had shifted to PCs and laptops. They were in crisis. Suddenly a significant number of their programmers were closing in on retirement, and they were having difficulty finding anyone skilled in COBOL. They had delayed too long, and paid a significant business price when they finally acted in accord with the changing environment.
Delay is a fair strategy when you are unable to determine whether the change is essential (it will have a significant impact–positive or negative–on your future). But don’t delay too long. Monitor. “Make the call.” Take control of your response, even if you can’t take control of the change.
“I Didn’t See it Coming”
Sometimes it feels good to be insular; it makes it much easier to deal with the few things we allow through the filters. Likewise, it is empowering to have a clear intention of where we are going on our change journeys, and are powerfully moving down the path to that future. However, in both cases, you can be bitten, and bitten hard, by what you don’t see coming.
Keep your eyes open. Don’t be afraid of information. Don’t keep your filters too tight. Know that your changes may need to change due to forces outside of your control, shifts in the external environment, things you learn along the way.
Change happens. We change. We develop new awareness and insights into who we are and how we show up in the world. Our bodies change. The world around us changes. Keep your eyes open. Watch for those changes that will impact you, make choices about those changes that are essential to your future. Then take charge. Don’t avoid, don’t delay, don’t be blind-sided, don’t be a victim. As I have quoted my grandfather in the past, “You can’t control the hand you are dealt, but it is up to you how to play it.” Play all your hands with courage, and with the strength that says you are in charge.
How do you respond to changes that happen? Comment below.