Dealing with Change is Haarrdd!

All of us have been through change at some point in our lives; some changes are of our own making, but can still be hard. Some changes are not in our control, which are more difficult. Of course, there are some changes that feel effortless in adapting to them.

Why is change so difficult to accept? A lot of it has to do with our genetic make-up. Our internal alert system (the amygdala) is always looking for threats to our safety; when something new comes along, it feels different so the alarm automatically goes off as a threat, leading to how you will deal with this new situation.

Depending on how you adapt, you will be in fight-flight-or freeze mode: fight is when you don’t know how to deal with a situation, or want to; fight is resistance; freeze is ‘this is too overwhelming for me to do anything about it.’ When we feel overwhelmed in our ability to deal, one of these will occur. Now, it is important to point out that there are individuals who adapt to new situations well, which is so interesting to study how they are able to be so receiving.

Rick Maurer, in his book Beyond the Wall of Resistance, says it comes down to two issues: 1) the goal or situation we are faced with is not clear to us, and 2) we don’t understand how that new change will benefit us. If one of these two are out of alignment, resistance will occur. Maurer also says that resistance occurs and results if we don’t like the idea or if we don’t really trust that the person leading the change will follow through on their words.

This happens frequently in the corporate world. Organizational change occurs frequently, of which many of the reasons are not known to employees and are not conveyed well, if at all. I never understand when an employer says they don’t want their workers to know of an upcoming change ahead of time so as not to upset them – don’t they realize the impact when it does occur, i.e. anger, disappointment, broken trust, etc.?

Change is harrdd. Plain and simple. But, there are ways to get through a change, if the emotional work is done which is really the root cause of resistance. Big changes, such as losing a job, going through a divorce, or a death, all can overtax the system with loss of which these will take time to get through.

But other changes, such as an organizational change, seem scary due to a fear of the unknown – will my job, pay, benefits, etc. stay the same? Will I have to learn new skills or will my hours continue? Whatever fear elicits will vary by individual but the fear is real. How you deal with it will determine how you get through and adapt to the new situations.

  • Recognize that change is hard but that you will get through whatever comes up: this seems simplistic but the natural response of the ego is ‘I can handle whatever comes up, it’s no big deal.’ Until it is. Being aware that you may not like the proposed change is the start of controlling any resistant thoughts that arise and help you recognize that you have been through many changes before and survived, which helps to give calm when you hear the news.
  • Take time to uncover the source(s) of any resistance felt: getting into deep-level awareness of why you don’t want the change will go a long way to overcoming these objections. You can now challenge any negative thoughts and begin to identify ways that will help you to cope better and accept new changes.
  • Identify your strengths in dealing with past challenges so you can take them in dealing with new ones. You are stronger than you believe and will make it through. However, how you deal will either determine your success or failure in your role. I once worked for a company that went through four mergers within a relatively short period of time; resistance was rampant at first, then turned into resignation. But I looked at each of these as a challenge, and an opportunity, to shine within the new realms that led to recognition and, eventually, promotional opportunities. You can do the same.

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