The Anatomy of Change 2/2: The Power of Leading Yourself thru CHANGE

Hi, there! Can you imagine it’s already June? I can’t.

The time flies so fast, bringing changes in nature all around us. Last week we talked in detail about the human brain, which explained why we humans fear something as unavoidable as change. If you missed this article, click here to catch up

This week we’ll discover together, what can you (and I) do to manage change for ourselves as individuals successfully. This way next week, we’ll be ready to learn more about managing change in others.

Let’s get started then 😊.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama

The Emotional Cycle of Change

Whether we want it or not any transition that we go through in life, of choice or not, brings upon us a cycle of emotions.

Remember last week; we talked about the emotional brain which processes our thoughts first before they reach the neo-cortex for logical processing?

We fear new situations that bring on change because they are not explainable by the emotional brain. It’s because of the novelty; it can’t find any reference in our past experiences to calm itself down and understand the new situation is not a threat to our lives.

When studying grief, Swiss-American psychiatrists Elisabeth Kubler Ross, discovered through research a natural sequence of emotions people went thru to cope with such hard moments in their lives. What it brought, was the realization that this emotional cycle repeats itself in other change situations in our lives, even the happy ones. It was only the duration of each emotional stage that was different depending on the event and the individual going through it.

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have— and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

How about then if we look at the cycle in more detail?

As you can see we experience more significant changes in life in three main stages: first holding on to the “old” (graph 1 & 2), then exploring the “new” (3) to finally accept it and make it our “norm” (4).

Firstly, in the denial stage, we can’t believe that the event is happening to us. It’s the case even if the new situation is a happy moment, for example, “OMG, I can’t believe I just got the promotion”; or the opposite, like losing a large client contract.

Secondly, our brain puts us through the resisting stage. You might think: “What if in reality I am not good enough for this great new job?” or “I don’t’ understand why we lost the contract; we were delivering such an excellent service to them?”

Next, we start exploring the benefits of the new situation. And of course, it’s much easier to do in the happy change (“Yey, I will learn so much in my new role!”), and more challenging in the opposite situation (“OK, let’s explore why this happened and what we can learn from it”). However, the faster you move to this stage, the better you will deal with the new reality.

The trick is not to let yourself stuck cycling in the first two stages of this cycle, which can happen.

After we have identified our WIIFM, i.e., “what’s in it for me,” we become committed to the new and get excited about it. Easier to do with the positive change of course but also possible with the more challenging one (“ok, we discovered some areas for improvement that we can fix and become even better we were”).

Lastly, the new transition doesn’t feel new anymore and becomes the norm. Something our emotional brain will be able to refer to in the future and not fear it as much when it happens again.

Now, it probably is a perfect moment to talk about how we can better manage those cycles to help ourselves go through any life transition successfully.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Here are 5 main steps to lead yourself through change:

1.   We all know change is an inevitable part of our lives – accept this and also the fact that our “resistant” stage produces stress.

2. Be kind to yourself. Being sad or scared are natural emotions we all go through, don’t fight them. Don’t be scared to talk to someone to help you go through them if you need to.

3.    Embrace being imperfect and know that we cannot control others, but we always have a choice how we react to things.

4.    Explore the benefits of the new situation as soon as possible.

5.  Create a plan for moving forward and be prepared for unexpected turns. Failure it’s just a short stop at the crossroads, not a destination.

As leaders, we need to be able to successfully and intentionally adapt to change ourselves before we lead others through it.  Taking ownership and control of it allows us to figure out “what’s in it for me quickly.” This way, the result is something we chose as opposed to something that just happened to us, and we needed to live with.

To finish up, I’d like to challenge by using the quote of C. JoyBell C.

“The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

C. JoyBell C.

And if you need help or advice on how to lead yourself through a change you have on your plate right now; I am here to help only one click away. Take control and reach out!

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