I believe that the most important skill anyone can have in the world we live in today is the ability to handle change effectively. The frenetic pace of innovation, communication, and cultural change in the world of today makes successfully responding to change an essential skill.
You may not think that you have the need to handle change effectively. That is, due to your profession and/or the roles that you play in life, you may perceive that change will not affect you.
Recent trends and future expectations suggests that this is an unlikely forecast for your future. In fact, whether it is in your workplace or in your home environment, it is very unlikely that you will live for any length of time without significant change in your life.
Based on that premise, developing the ability not just to cope with change, but to excel at handling it, is an increasingly necessary core competency if you want to live a successful life.
Dealing with change has become an absolutely essential capability. The good news, though, is that it is a skillset that can be developed. It is possible to learn to handle change well. And those who do this will become much more adept at navigating challenging situations – both large and small – than those who have spent the majority of their lives in the same position or life situation.
Here are a number of tips on how to improve your ability to handle change. Some apply to macro life changes and some can be applied to the small changes that happen to us on a daily basis.
- The most important thing you can do is to accept the fact that change is inevitable. In fact, you’ll need to acknowledge that change is essential to living successfully in the world of today. This acceptance will enable you to mentally be ready to address changes, as they occur, as opportunities instead of threats
- Resolve to not react emotionally and negatively to change. Instead, when events happen that cause change in your life, accept the change. Immediately begin to apply your change handling skills in order to work through the change as effectively as you possibly can.
- Whether you are in charge of making the change or you are being impacted by change, the fact is that you must lead yourself in dealing with the change. One of the biggest reasons that people resist change is that they feel powerless to deal with it. The way to counter this is to take the responsibility to lead yourself and those around you in making the necessary changes. This moves you from being a victim of the change to being a co-owner of the change. This seemingly minor reframing of the change mitigates the feelings that you are out of control with regard to the changes that you are being required to make.
- Learn to live with ambiguity. For some reason, it seems that most of us are wired to prefer certainty over unpredictability. Since change disturbs certainty, our first reaction to change is resistance and sometimes fear. If we can lessen our love of certainty and learn to better cope with ambiguity, we will be able to function more effectively when change happens.
- When change occurs, the one thing we can alter is ourselves. We control how we change. If we focus on making the personal adjustments we need to deal with the change, our proactive response will help us quickly take the actions needed to get on with the change. When change hits you, take personal responsibility to make the necessary changes. Lead yourself through the change.
- Accept the fact that you cannot change others. Some people will not be able to make the changes needed. Do not let this discourage you. You are not responsible for the ability of others to change. They are. Encourage them, lead them, help them. But in the end, others either change or they do not.
- Become an early supporter of the change. When change occurs, be quick to get over the past and the present. Embrace the change, don’t resist it. Look for ways that you can actively be involved in the change. Accept responsibility and support those who are leading the changes.
- Help others cope with the change. Instead of commiserating and complaining about the changes with your peers, become a resource to help them accept and then support the change. When change becomes inevitable, the best way to deal with it is to actively get involved with leading the change and this means supporting others so the changes can be made quickly.
- Become a leader with regard to communications about the change. Lead efforts to talk about the changes. Celebrate successes with your peers. Tell people about the good things that the changes are causing. Paint a vision of how much better things will be after the changes have occurred.
- Finally, don’t become part of those who are passively resisting the changes. Don’t get sucked into interactions with people who are negative and who are against the change. If you aren’t actively supporting the changes that are coming, you will soon become part of the problem. When this happens, you will lose control and the change is highly likely to ultimately affect you in a negative way.
These tips can help you with changes that are occurring in your personal life and with your family just as much as changes in the workplace or in your community. If you can welcome and embrace change, instead of fearing it and resisting it, you will develop the skills required to deal with future changes. As a result, as you get older, changes will be less likely to discourage and paralyze you. Instead, you will begin to see change as an opportunity to start a new and often richer season of your life experience.