Learn the basics of handling challenging transitions. Here’s an inventive look at business and career transition. Managing change requires resilience, just like renovating your home. Come find out why.
Tag Archive for: change
A very wise mentor (Marvin Weisbord at http://futuresearch.net) reminded me in a recent meeting of this eternal truth—that the future is now. He should know, as the organization he founded, Future Search, is clearly all about the future.
He knows that it is what we say and do today that brings about the desired future. Each step, each word today creates the platform for something that is either growing or decaying. Remember that clincher line from the movie Shawshank Redemption? “You either get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’”.
I sit on my local Y’s strategic planning committee. We want so badly to change, to engage in stronger causes for our community, but we struggle to define them clearly and distinctly from the “gym and swim” services we are known for.
How do we get busy livin’? We kinda sorta know it’s about the steps we take today, but we’re caught in the worries of recessionary times, and the fear of doing something different. We know the community is changing, the needs are changing, yet we grapple with how to hit the right needs and stay solvent as an organization.
Comfort is the enemy of change. Like the frog who is put in a pot of cold water, which is then set to boil, it’s often too late to jump out of the boiling pot, the old comfort, when we finally realize the old comforts aren’t serving us any more.
I ran into this twice today, once on the organizational front, and again in a personal coaching session. The comfort of habit is powerful. For organizations, the addage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is the sinker. For individuals, it’s the devil I know that seduces us, versus the devil I don’t know?the gamble of change, that scares us away. We fool ourselves into thinking that it’s OK, it’s as “good as it gets”. We each ride the sine wave of life, not realizing that we have the power to supercharge it with something more.
And though the answer is easy, it surely isn’t simple to do. It requires us to get up and move, to ask others what they think, to find the common ground between what we can offer, and what the world needs of us. And this requires us to think together, to borrow other’s ideas, to look at the whole picture before we invest in changing a part.
Whether it is individual change or organization change, understanding the whole picture and building bridges that lead us away from comfortable old habits, which threaten to boil us, is the most important place to start. Fear is a pretty ugly four letter word.
The future is now. What are you thinking, what are you saying, and what are you doing, right now? How do you get busy livin’ today?
I have written recently about the triathlon that I am training for these days. It’s a teeny tiny race, just for beginners like me. But it’s not the race that I’m training for. It’s the structure. I suspect this must be the way architects think. While I’m sure they enjoy the end result, what they delight in is the creation of structure that serves a greater purpose. Undergirding, framing, supporting, reaching—these all seem to be great features of the architect’s world. And for those of us who choose change.
Sometimes the structures we create just get us through the day and the week. Why do you think organizations like Weight Watchers and AA stay in business? Because we need external scaffolding to order our lives, especially when it feels like it is in chaos.
Sometimes structure helps us reach beyond the everyday. For me, it is the triathlon training class I attend every Monday. For you it may be the interior design class you enrolled in, the yoga program, or the gardening clinic. Structure and external support do wonders for us, particularly when we have consciously chosen to make a change.
And how great is it when a structure provides multiple benefits? My main reason for triathlon training is to keep my mind occupied and my body busy during my son’s deployment. But I am very excited about how much better my body feels, and the half pound weight loss I’ve been enjoying most weeks for the last month. Slow and steady really feels good.
All this proves to me, yet again, that my belief that Discipline is the price you pay for freedom—is powerful. Every day I look at my training program, and no matter how blue I’m feeling or how busy my day gets, I have this solid commitment that I won’t go to bed before I get in my swim or my run.
Small successes are a great motivator to keep going. Even if I’m slow or out of breath today, I feel so proud of myself for just getting it done, no matter how sloppy it was. The payoff is in the persistence.
What structures are available to you today? What promise can you make yourself that you will keep before you go to bed tonight? Small successes get me through the weeks when I don’t lose that hoped for half pound. I put my swimsuit on and paddle anyway, with the promise that tomorrow will be the day to find my edge.
We each have to bottle enough hope at the end of the day to try again tomorrow.
Bottling hope. It’s what I do everyday now.
Over the past year I have formed a renewed relationship with my cousin Jo. She and I were best buddies growing up, but once we hit adulthood we parted ways for most of the last thirty years. In a phone conversation about a year ago she heard the frustration in my voice and offered to help.
What an amazing ability, to hear a cry for help, even when it isn’t directly articulated in words, and then to respond to it. I’m not particularly good at asking for help, but when she extended a hand, I took it this time.
I think many of us are afraid to take help. Look at the possible consequences. It means you can’t do something by yourself, it means you might owe someone something, it means being tied to a relationship and investing energy into it. Hmmm. Maybe it means looking in the mirror and being a little humble at the same time.
I don’t know about you, but humility is not one of my strong points. So accepting help, even with all those “strings” attached has been the smartest move I made over the last year. And here’s why, the flip side of those consequences.
First, we revitalized and deepened our connection. How especially satisfying since the base we stared with oh so many years ago is rock solid.
Second, I had a learning partner and someone to lean on in a challenging year. She let me lean on her. And it has been so comforting. There is nothing better than knowing you’re not in something alone.
Third, we made business strides together and saw payback from our joint efforts. In fact, it was her support through the year that kept me steady on the blog posting, and continuing to move my business forward in challenging family times.
And now it’s time for a change. She is ready to move on to the next phase of her life, and funny thing, I’m ready to take on more. More, because the brace she provided has encouraged me, and prepared me for the next step.
She put her hand out and held me up this year. Do I owe her? You bet, and I’m glad for it. She now knows with more certitude that when she needs support, I’ll be there for her. That’s an IOU that I can live with and be grateful for.
Go ahead. Ask for some help today. Even if it’s hard, remember that no great deed happens with a singular sweep or singular effort.
This morning in yoga class, which is a small community unto itself, our instructor had us begin with handstands. Usually, as in any kind of fitness class, there is a warm-up period before we jump right into jumping right in. But it was a great reminder of how important play is to work.
We started with running jumps into handstands against the wall. It was so amazing how overrated warming up can be sometimes. We are all pretty experienced yogis in the class, so truth is we could all do this. But we usually don’t. And the playfulness, as well as the challenge got all our juices flowing, and warmed up those big muscles pretty fast.
I needed some help, mostly because as I stepped in to flip up, the muscle in my head held me back—not my physical strength. When we set off on any new project it is that stubborn muscle in our heads that typically holds us back more than our physical strength or our motivational strength. The worst four letter word of all—fear—takes over.
As much as I enjoyed the playfulness of class this morning, no, I didn’t manage to do the running jump up into handstand—yet. What was terrific, though, was how I was helped by the instructor and felt the support of my yoga community. Part of being playful in order to work is using your neighbors for moral support. My teacher, Naime (see http://diggyoga.com) is expert at pushing you towards just the right amount of support, and indeed pushing you to take on the next step. Not there yet, but the play element makes me want to do the work even more.
Play more! Work less! When work is play, we enjoy it so much more. Have you reviewed your attitude lately to the project you have taken on? If you see it as a challenge, as a new game to play, then maybe it will become much more do-able.
Military families experience change more often than most. Those that are good at it, learn to accept and go with the flow. Resistance only heightens the stress and the dizziness of it all.
I know. I am the mom of a deploying soldier. He left six days ago. Military life truly is a “hurry up and wait” world. And as a professional in the world of change and transition, I find it particularly fascinating to observe my own behavior and that of friends and family around me.
I am beginning to understand the fundamentals of transition in an even deeper way, as this is our second turn at this experience. First, the military experience teaches you much about patience in the face of that which you cannot control. I cannot control that my country chooses to be at war in Afghanistan. While I can make my personal wishes known in my vote, I am subject to the wishes of all my countrymen.
Second, I cannot control the choices my son makes. He chose to be in the military, and it is a career choice that has served him well. Though none of us is excited about deployment, I can be proud that his sense of service and duty rises above his personal needs, and he performs his duty. I, on the other hand, got drafted into this job.
Doesn’t the most profound change often come when we are drafted into it? Whether it is a lay off from a job, the arrival of children, or someone falling ill in the family, drafted we are. Curve balls like this force us into the best possible opportunities for choosing on purpose. We work very hard in our family to not wallow and worry about our son. To worry is human. But to wallow is giving in to stuckness. We choose to talk the experience through, to find ways to stay busy (which is why I’m training for a triathlon), and to keep our eye on the ball of living life.
Getting drafted into a change isn’t easy, but the steps to manage it are simple. We launch ourselves into work that is fulfilling, seek to discover what else we can learn from it, and decide to dock in a place that keeps our spirits up and the worries at bay.
Support above all. I tell people about my situation. It allows me to experience the pride of having others recognize my son’s service, appreciate their gratitude, and talk about the experience in a positive way. I used to think this was kind of selfish, but I got over myself on that, and decided that it’s OK to put out there what I need during a time like this.
So put yourself out there. Let others know what you’re all about and what you need to survive and thrive. You’ll be there for them when they need it.
I worked on-site with a client team this week that desperately needs change, but is walking through molasses to get there. Like the image above, change requires the birth of an idea, gears to put it into action, and a clear target to hit.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But as we’ve said before, simple isn’t easy to do. I was reminded by this group in particular about how we cling to the past, and have this habit of harkening back to “better days”. It’s so ironic isn’t it? The only reason to change is to make things better, but the discipline it takes and the anxiety we produce about it puts us in slow motion.
Hmmm. What to do about this? There is clearly no silver bullet, for if there were, it would have received a Nobel Peace Prize by now. What we do know though, is that finding support, surrounding ourselves with other people who need to go through this too, makes a big difference.
It’s why, when I work with a business group going through change, I always do it in a way that puts them and their conversations at the center. Sometimes in these situations people need to vent or let out their anger. Despite this, it never fails that there is at least a 51% trend toward what my clients this week love to call ELMO (enough, let’s move on!). It seems no matter how much we drag our feet, when we put a whole team of brains together, we get it faster and harder that it’s important to move NOW.
We muck around in the past, figure out what’s really affecting us in the present, and then through a process of finding common ground, pick a place to start that we all agree on, to build a better future. The process is called Future Search (see info about our work at http://futuresearch.net).
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to talk this through TOGETHER, and figure out what we want to do TOGETHER. What I know or you know, or have an opinion about, is just our own (often whiny) perspective. But something magical happens to that opinion when it is expressed openly in a team, and we then work it together to an agreed upon start.
Now there’s some energy about doing something about the mess we are in. And sometimes the starting place isn’t what we pictured as a manager, but it doesn’t matter. Start where the energy is, and it’s more likely that more change will come, and faster.
It’s not so hard to change when everyone decides to get down on the floor and clean up the molasses around their feet, since the guy and gal next them is doing it too. And amazing, when we all do a little, the path is suddenly much clearer to move ahead. There’s really something to that old saying, “Many hands make the work light.”
On a request from my friend and piano teacher, Lori, I did a workshop today for moms in my community. Turns out it was an eye opening experience for all of us. They got a chance to explore what’s next for them, as they look at transitioning out of the role of full time mom. And I got a chance to see how much each of us is twentysomething again when we face big change.
Even though I wrote my book Choose on Purpose (for twentysomethings) with twentysomethings in mind, in my heart I knew it applies to all of us. Even my major reviewer said so, when she commented “Clear ideas for planning and implementing objectives are presented in a fun, accessible format… job seekers of any age would benefit from this book.”
But what you know, as I tell myself and others often, is not necessarily what you do. Seeing opportunity through someone’s else’s eyes is itself an eye opener. Much like young people seeking their first life steps, from career finding to partner finding, and location finding to friend finding, looking up ten years after your children’s birth can be a phase full of confusion and bewilderment.
This phase bewilders we think that ten or fifteen more years of life experience should somehow make us “know better.” Fact is, whether we get comfortable in the routines of college life or first job life, spousal life or parenting life, we’re always twentysomething in spirit when we face a change.
We have trapped ourselves into believing that the only time we “have our whole life ahead of us” is when we are young. But every time we pick ourselves up, pay attention to the choices we are making, and decide to change, we still have our whole lives in front of us.
I told the story today of my dear friend Mary who got her college degree in her late thirties, then went on for her doctorate in rehabilitation psychology in the tender years of her mid forties. The moms hearing that story today were so encouraged. How did we manage to make ourselves feel old at thirty-eight?
Never blame anything on menopause or old age, says my wise friend Ginny. I think we’d best heed that advice, follow Mary’s path of re-inventing ourselves at whatever age, and remember that twentysomething is a state of mind, not a state of chronological age.
A good friend recently wrote an article about fitness for the new year, and she titled it I Go to the Gym. I liked the notion so much, that I’ve stolen her core concept to talk about the first triathlon I’ve signed up to compete in.
The core concept is that once we name a goal, and share it with other people, we bolster our ability to reach our goal. Not new news, but worth revisiting. Sometimes we just announce it to ourselves in the mirror, so we’ll have the fortitude to go to the gym today. And sometimes we tell other people. “Hey, guess what I’m doing this year? I signed up to do a triathlon. Crazy, huh?!”
Whichever it is, the more we say it out loud, the more we believe in our ability to accomplish it. So I researched online about triathlons before New Year’s Day. I told my husband, my kids, and a couple of friends I was training for a triathlon. I had a workout plan, a race picked out. I was ready.
Then I got distracted, busy, didn’t quite keep up with the schedule. So I sat myself down for a good talking to. Really, I had already told a few people. Was I going to turn into a little liar? Why hadn’t I signed up? Was I afraid of the commitment?
I was afraid. Afraid of taking on something new. Particularly afraid of getting back on my bike, as I had a bad fall a few years ago and haven’t biked much since. But there was a deeper fear. You see, my son is about to deploy to Afghanistan for a second time, and that makes me scared.
So where to put all this fear? It’s normal to be afraid of war. There would be something wrong with me if I weren’t. But my son has trained for this dangerous job, and the best way to honor him is to get past my own fears. So I’m getting busy working on a new goal.
Hard? Yes. Challenging? You bet. Will there be tears along the way? Of course—some because I’ve pushed my body too hard, and some out of worry about him.
But I love that I can shout out to the world, “I am a triathlete!” It doesn’t matter if I’m slow, or not a great swimmer. What matters is that I’m aware of my fears and I’m channeling them somewhere productive. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
I’m proud to report that I finally did sign up for the race two days ago. And since it’s a hundred buck investment, you can be sure I’m going to show up for it.
So how are you channeling your fears? Not every one is as big as this one, but I can vouch for the importance of moving your body to move past the fear. It focuses my heart in a new direction and keeps my mind sharp. And what better way to face fear than that?
As much as we complain about change, when we don’t have it, we know something is wrong. This is part of what is happening in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan today. When people don’t feel the momentum and pulse of change that helps make their own lives a little better each day, they get weary and frustrated.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times hinted that what is happening in northern Africa may be something like the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 80s. Once the first domino falls, the momentum is unstoppable.
This kind of change is good, but there is a price to pay for it. It’s kind of like a natural disaster hitting an area. The ecologists have been studying this for decades, and the biggest lesson they have to teach is about “looseness” and variability.
Ecosystems have lots of variety in them, and that is the very secret to their success. When floods or fires hit, some hardy little plant and animal creatures survive, start to come back first, and then bring along all the other critters and plant life over time.
“Stay loose” isn’t just a cool slogan, it’s the secret to resilient living.
In general, democracies tend to have more variability and looseness in them—lots of opinions get heard, and arguments are had. These democracies don’t have to be perfect, but they do need an element of “we’re all in this together”, and the support and sharing, including differences, that comes with it.
Depending on how mature a democracy is—be it nation, family or business—it will be in various states of democratic functioning. Truth is, we all need a lead dog now and again to create order when things get chaotic. But a lead dog that stays there too long, and robs people of their creativity and their contribution—well, that can’t last forever.
So change is in the air. It could get rough for a while, but we know about that as Americans. A super speech, delivered by Michael Douglas in the movie The American President, puts it perfectly:
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, cause it’s going to put up a fight.”
As we all know, change of any kind puts up a fight. And it’s good for us, because it forces us to decide how much we want it, and to find the best way to shout it out to the world and make it happen.
So let’s not judge the change afloat, or how or why it’s happening. Let’s learn from it, and remember that variety is the name of the game. It gives us different opinions, it improves how we explain ourselves and improves our logic and our ability to bring about the very change we desire.
By looking hard at the differences we will eventually find some common ground, and that is where positive action comes from. When we all agree to start somewhere, then change is really possible. Let’s stay tuned…