If unexpected changes were roses, I would have been the Grand Marshall for the Tournament of Roses Parade this past year. So, bracing for more changes in 2022, January is the perfect month to discuss change and crises in life, and how to effectively manage them.
Historically, change is nothing new. As the 535 BC-era Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” Benjamin Franklin was a bit blunter: “When you're finished changing, you're finished.”
The challenge is not how to avoid change, but how to live well in the midst of it. Today I’m reflecting on how to cope with change and nurture flexibility. Of course, we’ve all heard, “pivot” so many times our toes are groaning. So, let’s skip the cliches and look at concrete ways to be more flexible.
First, why is change so difficult? According to Dr. Scott Williams of Wright State University’s College of Business*, “One of the reasons we aren't always as flexible...is that we like the plans we've already made and don't want to change them. We get committed to our goals and plans...we visualize ourselves realizing those goals and imagine how satisfying that will be.” So, when we’re forced to switch directions, it can feel that our goals have been squashed. We may feel it’s a loss. That hurts. And we may be wrong assuming that.
Last year I opened a new office with plans for all sorts of workshops and seminars. Then COVID took over. I could have pouted the year away and blamed it on forces I couldn’t control. Instead, I thanked God for Zoom and kept my business going. The key was to immediately accept reality, rather than lose time bemoaning it.
Other reasons for trepidation are that, according to Dr. Williams, “We’re risk averse, and we fear the unknown.” Of course. When a crisis hits, we aren’t ready with a plan. And no matter how many people tell us we can design a plan and conquer the challenge, unless we’re flexible, it’s a hard sell. Enter: confidence. We must nurture our confidence, so we believe we are capable of managing change.
Psychologist Steve Rose recommends ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). He suggests six steps to increase flexibility and acceptance:
Accept what you can’t change.
Step back from your thoughts – don’t react. Pause, think, and then act.
Focus on the present – ignore for a bit the past and the future. Focus on NOW.
See the bigger picture – IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU (and your plans). How can you assist others in the midst of crisis? Take some risks. Rigidity is practicing habits that are no longer helpful. “The ability to adapt to more effective habits allows you to move forward more efficiently.”
Live by YOUR values. Values are your compass. They guide how you live and how you make choices.
While changes catch us off guard. What still works are organizational habits that work in any situation. For me, I can’t live without my Microsoft Office Task List. It helps me manage my time effectively. Lists provide structure—and that helps alleviate fear. Analyze the situation and determine what’s needed. Then, divide those needs into sections. Make lists for each section. Soon you’ve created a plan. Once the plan is in place, there’s no time for regrets or anger. Only time to move ahead.
Likewise, I have a notebook that is my fifth appendage. I gave up on sticky notes for long-term reminders ages ago. They get lost in the shuffle. But my notebook does not. My thoughts and ideas are all there to recapture when needed.
The other thing I can’t be without is people. Like Barbara Streisand sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” When we help others, they’re eager to give back. And in your time of need, you’ll reap the benefits of helping others. It comes back full circle.
Along the way, there’s moments for tears and steam-letting, but you have a plan—which is subject to numerous revisions, but you have a plan to begin. Of course, things may be forgotten or overlooked. That’s when healthy, honest apologies are vital. We all make mistakes now and then. People understand this if we’re honest about it.
Next, keep things in perspective. Setbacks usually come with workarounds—if you’re willing to accept them. Setbacks are also learning opportunities. Challenges provide growth.
Since I was quite young, I’ve thrived on converting chaos into calm. Try it. Make it a game: How do I turn this into something amazing?
Of course, there are life coaches and business coaches. Speaking of which, I’m happy to help you—particularly if you’re in direct sales and aren’t achieving your goals. Make 2022 the year you DO triumph. Make this a year of challenges you’ve conquered and come oh-so-far in the process. Contact me if you want to know more. Meanwhile, I wish you great personal and professional success in 2022.