FAQ – Embracing change

I love this bit of wisdom from Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” As humans, we generally don’t like change. We like to be comfortable, and we are also creatures of habit. We like to buy the same kinds of clothes, eat the same breakfasts, pack up the same lunch, keep with the same brands of paints and tools… At least until we feel they’ve let us down.

We like the security of certainty, and we sometimes see change as challenging that security, even if things might get better, “Better the devil you know” and all that.
  There’s a way of embracing change though, even difficult change and that’s by looking at the opportunities that change brings.

Big changes and little changes

There have been some really big changes for all of us in the past few years – Covid, Brexit, climate change… And none of them are going away any day soon.
  There’s very little that we can do to change those big issues. We can make positive contributions, but we can’t change the big picture.
  But as Maya Angelou said, what we can change is how we respond to those big changes, and we can certainly alter how we respond to little changes in our lives.
  I use the word ‘respond’ instead of the word ‘react’ because responding indicates measured thoughtfulness, whereas reacting is often done in the spur of the moment. Reacting can be a very biological and emotional decision.
  You react when you’re playing football and someone passes you the ball – it’s fast, momentary. You respond when you see how the play is progressing and you run into space that will give you positive options if the ball comes your way.
  • Reacting is tactical – it’s about the now.
  • Responding is strategic – it’s about the future.
In nature, it’s often those animals that can adapt and change which are the most successful. The fox and pigeon have adapted superbly to urban life. The more adaptable you are to change, the more successful you’re likely to be.

Whenever dealing with change, remember what hasn’t changed. If you still have a roof over your head, your friends and family, your health… whatever it is. There is still a lot in your life which remains stable.

• Practise gratitude for what you have, even the simple things.

• Take some time to reflect on what’s happened and why it happened, but don’t dwell on it or wallow in it. Then think about what options you have for the future. Times of change can be times to be creative about what comes next.

• If it helps make decisions, do a ‘SWOT analysis’ – listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of different options. It can really help clarify how to respond.

• Don’t make important decisions when you’re feeling really emotional about change. Doing things like the SWOT analysis and practising gratitude can help ground you, and make your decision-making more objective and clear.

Three rules for embracing change

Wiser people than me have given useful advice on change, from the Greek philosophers to modern day business people. Here’s a selection:
  • Accept that change is part of life.
  • Be open-minded to new ways of doing things.
• Reframe how you think about challenge and change – see it not as a threat to how things are, but an opportunity to how things could be.

I often remember this great quote by Reinhold Neibuhr, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
  If we can embrace change as not only inevitable, but an opportunity to grow, to experience life in a different way, then change becomes a positive stimulus in our lives, it becomes a way to become more alive and responsive. In business it can lead to changing what we do to be more satisfying or profitable.
  Change can be a force for good if we respond to it positively.