While the past year may have amplified it, the amount of change and uncertainty surrounding us has been steadily increasing for quite some time now. In fact, as soon as we get comfortable with something, it seems to inevitably change again.
One thing we can count on not changing anytime soon is this amount and pace of change – it’s here to stay. So how we deal with it will go a long way in determining whether we experience consistent success or setbacks.
Whether you are the type of person who is energized by change (bring it on!) or handicapped by it (what will I do?!), change causes an emotional reaction in our brains. Left unchallenged or unregulated, those emotions can overwhelm us and negatively impact our ability to think and perform well.
Here are three ways you can help mitigate that response and put yourself in a position to handle the stress (both positive and negative) that often comes with change.
One way to calm and control those emotions is to pause and recognize them. During this self-reflection process, try to assign a label to how you are feeling. Think about the emotion and the feelings created – and choose a word to describe it. Be as specific as possible, forcing yourself to work through what (for most of us) is a limited emotional library.
Rather than just choosing the word “mad” – ask yourself if you are “angry”, “disappointed”, “frustrated”, or “disrespected”? Acknowledging and labeling those emotions helps you better understand and put them in their proper place rather than allowing them to dominate your thinking. This process also forces you to engage the more rational, thinking part of your brain – always a good way to calm that emotional response.
Emotional responses often cause us to shift our focus internally – what does this mean for me? An easy way to fight that is to force yourself to think through the change from multiple perspectives to better see the entire picture. Be curious and ask good questions to help you understand the need and motivation for the change.
Shifting your time perspective can be helpful as well. You may feel charged now, but how will you feel one week, one month, or one year down the road? Envision a future state to better understand how you may feel about the change in time.
Every change comes with opportunity. The key is to always be on the lookout for it. Rather than just reacting to the immediate circumstances, try to expand your thinking to see what new opportunities are now available. Growth and change go hand in hand, so sometimes being forced to grow through change is exactly what we need to push through our comfort zones.
When experiencing change, create a discipline to work through a process to identify those new opportunities. This is where the voice of an outsider can be especially helpful. Engage a partner, coach, or mentor to help challenge your thinking to see the possibilities.
One common theme with all three of these strategies is to ask yourself, “How do I push past my emotional response and think through the situation?” Whatever your natural reaction is to change (ready or reluctant), finding ways to control those emotions to help you think and react well is key. In fact, it’s probably the biggest factor in whether you only survive the challenge – or are able to thrive and come through it even stronger.