Why’s Change So Blinkin’ Hard? (Part 2)
It’s that top off the month time again.
Every month you can look forward to a hand-crafted, expertly curated blogpost and update from me on the 1st of every month except when that falls on Sundays or if I’m off the grid and the satellite internet is sketchy.
I write about life, level five leadership, relationships, hard work and connecting the dots to try and make it all come together. I love learning new things and I love doing hard things well. Particularly when what I’m doing directly benefits the lives of others. My goal with this monthly reach out is to propel us toward excellence in service to others.
Grab a cup of your favourite hot drink and let’s hang out for a bit. I’m tending a freshly pressed Chilcotin Beartrap coffee assembled and custom ground in the 100 Mile Save-On bulk food aisle. Powerful tasty.
Why’s Change Always So Blinkin’ Hard? Part 2
In April I explored some of the dynamics of change and why we as human beings sometimes find it sooo…. difficult. It messes with us at so many levels – at a personal level, in our relationships, families, places of worship and at our places of work.
As a deep diver on complex issues, I had to lengthen my snorkel tube and take a few extra deep breaths in order to get to the bottom of this one.
So here’s my run down and summary on Change Management:
- Change is gonna happen regardless of how we feel about it. Sometimes its welcome. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it silently sneaks up you then other times it comes in hot and hard. It can be trivial, or it can be tragic. Sometimes we have a say. Often we don’t.
- “Embrace change” is one of those really dumb trigger phrases that has me eyeing the nearest trash can in just in case I have to heave. Change merely for the sake of change doesn’t work. It’s usually espoused by a revved up motivational speaker or someone with an aggressive personal agenda who hasn’t fully thought through the implications. Secretly, they may be masochists who actually enjoy suffering.
- Changes that are obviously beneficial or move us forward are easy to embrace. But many changes can be downright negative, tough, perhaps impossible to welcome. This list might include loss of a relationship, a loved one, health, job, money, and such. We don’t choose the difficulties or negative changes that spring upon us.
- We can always choose how we respond.
Having navigated and survived a lot of changes, there’s three observable change strategies or approaches we can choose take when faced with inevitable change. The approaches are what I’d call “on the line” thinking, “above the line” thinking and of course ”below the line” thinking.
“On the line thinking” is a status quo, avoidance approach. Basically, sit on the fence, float on the surface and or whatever other passive analogy you can think of and hope to goodness nothing really bad will happen.
Here’s a very cool diagram that explains it all.
The Three Lines
You’ll see there are areas slightly above and slightly below the line. This is “survivor” zone. If this is our response to a difficult change or problem, we’re sitting on the fence to see what might happen, or we are waiting for someone else to do something. There may be times and reasons for staying in survivor mode that may be quite smart— as long as we stay above the line. Certain high risk scenarios call for “proceed with caution”. Hence the sayings “pioneers get shot at” and “the second mouse gets the cheese”.
Examples might be when more information is needed or we have to do some research, or to see whether a change is going become a trend, or which way a new boss, government, or relationship is going to go.
Then there’s the “above the line” thinking approach In this zone, we’re trying to understand the problem or change and figure it out. In this mode we become like a sailing ship captain. We know we can’t control the wind and currents, but we can adjust the sails and chart a course that makes the best use of the elements to move us toward our destination. We effectively become change “navigators”.
Below the line is a dangerous territory of reactive “victim” mode. When we’re in this head space, we’re bitter, helpless, and feeling like others are out to get us or deliberately want to do it to us. In this “blame storming” mode we might point fingers at politicians, bosses or senior management, other departments, customers, competitors, and the like. Decades of research by University of Pennsylvania Psychology professor, Martin Seligman, shows that explaining events in our lives in this state of “learned helplessness” leads to lower performance, poorer health, and higher rates of depression.
What Pulls People Below The Line?
Short answer? Mostly it’s our built in human bias for fear that pulls us down.
In a poll probing exploring irrational anxieties, pollster Allan Gregg asked, “If someone told you something was safe and someone else told you it was unsafe, which one would you believe?” He found that an astounding “68 percent would accept the message of doom and gloom” without questioning who was telling them and what they were talking about. We automatically gravitate to the negative then tend to get stuck there.
Here’s another insightful research piece that explains how we can easily get stuck in victimhood.
- Changes big and small will keep coming at us and affect us all. Our responses to changes determine whether we’re a Navigator, Survivor or Victim.
- Understanding that there’s a predictable human emotional toll, turmoil and uncertainty that accompanies change helps us process change.
- When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by change related fears or anxieties or “numbing out”, It always helps to begin identifying and labeling your emotions. (I have some tools for this- just ask)
- You gotta know how you feel before you can change it or do something about it.
Getting down to the nitty gritty about what’s happening and your emotions around it helps you better lead yourself. It also helps you gain clarity to create a pathway for personal action.
What’s the biggest change challenge you’re facing these days? I’ve got one or two of my own going on.
So what do you say. Drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.
Have a great month of June !
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