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Managing Continual Change

March 4th, 2011

If there is one theme that I hear and experience every day in my work world and in my private world, it is change. We live in a continually changing world. And the changes are coming faster all the time. I don’t even get adjusted to one change before I have to deal with another one. At times, it feels that the changes, and the talk about change, is overwhelming and I can’t cope. While change is not new, the speed at which it is presented to us is. It is this rapid and continual change that makes it hard to know how to handle change today.

Following are some thoughts I developed on handling change about two years ago. I find them very relevant today and thought I would share them again. I shared these with a group of employees from an organization that was experiencing a significant change at the time. I hope you find something of value in these comments.

Managing Change:

  • Recognize that most people experience an emotional reaction to change. Many times it is anger, depression, or shock. However, it can also be excitement, relief, or happiness. Some people feel these emotions, especially the negative ones, are inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace. We need to realize that these reactions are perfectly normal and natural. Be careful not to beat yourself up for experiencing strong emotions toward the changes. Give yourself permission to feel the way you feel.
  • While recognizing and accepting these emotions as natural, you don’t want to wallow in them either. Fighting these feelings will take energy; energy needed to address the changes and move forward. Accepting the natural course of reactions will reduce the energy used in coping with the change.
  • We need to recognize that dealing with any change takes time. And there is no standard time frame for everyone to work through their emotions. Each individual will move through the process at their own pace. Therefore, have patience and don’t expect yourself to be at peak performance during the transition period.
  • Another normal reaction to change is to feel a sense of losing control and to feel as if nothing is as it was. Therefore, it is helpful to establish a sense of personal control. Do not over-commit to things that require additional energy. Protect your resources by maintaining your physical well-being. Eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep and rest. Take occasional breaks at work to rejuvenate the psyche. Relax with friends and participate in hobbies. Some may see this as escapism, but it is a means of exerting control over the uncertainty you are experiencing.
  • Keep in mind that while you do not have control of the changes taking place, you do have control over how you perceive the changes. You can choose to see benefits, as well as, the loses. Ask yourself what you are losing and what you might be gaining. Make an actual list of both loses and gains.
  • In the long run, maybe the best mechanism for coping with change is to anticipate it and see it for what it is; the natural flow of living in a dynamic world.

The next time you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with the world or your life, think about what is happening. Take some time for reflection and beginning to put things into perspective. While not all change is good, embrace the changing process and see it as a time to learn and stretch yourself. Until next time, identify a current change and apply the thoughts above to that situation.

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