Seven top tips on thriving through change
“It’s not the strongest species that survive,
nor the most intelligent,
but the most responsive to change”
(US academic Leon C. Megginson, paraphrasing Charles Darwin)
Change can be unsettling, scary, exciting, frustrating, motivating, anxiety causing and more … sometimes all at the same time.
As we so frequently hear that we are in unprecedented times … there is so much out of our control, so much unknown and so much we need to be adapting to. (If I hear the word ‘pivot’ one more time I may scream!). The roller coaster of continual change can get overwhelming.
So, I decided to write my seven top tips for thriving through this time of change. I hope you enjoy them and that they can support you well on your journey.
1. STOP … and find some space to breathe.
Groupwork Centre co-founder Glen Ochre used to say, “We are human beings, not human doings”. How easy is it to get trapped in the doing, not coming up for air, not allowing ourselves to breathe?
Imagine if we did … we might taste that coffee, hear the birds, smell that rose and be absorbed in that one moment.
So, try it, pause, enjoy the perfection of the moment and check in with yourself.
How are you?
2. Be aware of how you are responding
During that pause it is good to acknowledge the feelings that are coming up for you. We each have different responses to change, and our response may also differ over time. Some of us may be excited by it one day, anxious about it the next. Whatever you are experiencing will be completely normal.
Focusing our energy into things we can control, e.g. looking after ourselves, will help us feel not all is chaos. Finding the silver linings and focusing on them can help bring hope and keep things in perspective. Remember, it’s not what happens to us in life, but how we respond.
If you are feeling overwhelmingly depressed or anxious it might be worth reaching out to someone for support …
3. Look after yourself
This one seems obvious and yet often gets dropped to the bottom of the pile. When change happens it can be stressful, so make an effort to do the basics well.
Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, take time out to relax and do something you enjoy. These simple routines will give you the best chance to handle the challenges that come at this time. On the other hand, if you are not looking after yourself you may find things more difficult.
Writing a self-care plan can help you be aware of what is going to work well for you through this time. If you put it somewhere visible it can help remind you to put yourself first sometimes.
4. Talk about it
You know the old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved”, well, there’s truth in that. Finding someone who can truly be present for you is gold. It could be a friend, a family member, a colleague or a counsellor.
I suggest you find someone who is not going to try to fix you or give unwanted advice (if you ask for it, that’s different). When we are truly heard and acknowledged we can often find our own solutions. Sometimes being heard is enough.
5. Be aware of what you can control and what you cannot
If you know change is coming, plan how you are going to deal with it, identify what resources and support will help you through it.
If change happens to you with little or no warning (like Covid-19) try these steps. The circles of control, influence and concern model developed by Stephen R Covey is a useful tool, and one that I’ve adapted here.
- STOP and find some space to reflect and plan.
- Identify what is within your control and what you can change to improve your situation. e.g. work 4 days a week for a month to give you breathing space. Be creative here, crazy ideas may have some value.
- After you have made a list of options, work through the pros and cons of each.
- Choose the options you are going to run with.
- Then make a list of what you cannot control, see if you can let them go. Personally, I like a good list burning over the fire pit.
6. Be flexible and let go
“The only constant in life is change.” (Heraclitus). Change will happen, we are experiencing it on a global scale now, but it happens throughout our life’s journey. Sometimes it is small, sometimes big, sometimes within our control, sometimes not. Letting go of our expectations of how we thought things should be helps us readjust to our new reality. Resisting change that is out of our control can only cause us harm.
7. Create Change
Sometimes we can get stuck in the same old same old and walk through life half asleep. It may be that we need to change but are held back by fear. If we find ourselves in a situation that is no longer working for us, we can do something about it. It can take courage and commitment to make changes, but surely it is better to be awake to our discomfort, choose to change our situation rather than be stuck in one that is no longer serving us or our purpose in life.
At the end of the day, change happens … let’s choose to accept it, be aware of how we are responding and make wise choices so that change can be a positive energy in our lives.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
(paraphrase of a longer quotation by Mahatma Gandhi)