Survival Skills to Navigate Change

Change, chaTornado Oklahoma, USAnge and more change! While some people think it’s good for us, I took an informal poll and that’s not necessarily true!

Many say we could actually do with a lot less change, thank you very much! We plead, “Why can’t things just settle down to a nice, steady pace so we can catch our breath? Is it asking too much to have time to implement one thing before we begin another?”

No doubt about it, change is in the air and whether we’re ready or not, it’s something we must adapt to regardless of how much pleading we might do. In fact, the ability to quickly deal with a changing environment is a survival skill.

So, here are a few practical tips to help us cope, no matter what life or business sends our way:

Prepare for the struggle before the storm. Ever notice we experience almost as much turmoil of “angst” preparing to make the change as we do going through it? This is especially true if we are the instigators. It’s not always easier to be the one who starts the process because of the toll it takes beforehand both mentally and emotionally. It’s almost a welcome relief once we’ve made up our minds and the change begins!

Manage both endings and beginnings. With every new beginning, we also face an ending – or two or three. Endings and beginnings can be constructive or destructive, but our job is to end as many destructive patterns, behaviors, relationships as possible. Then we must substitute them with constructive replacements. Something will fill the void, so let’s be sure to make a conscious choice rather than accept by default what happens to come our way. Fashion designer, Coco Chanel said, “It’s in the act of deciding what to remove that we place value on what’s left behind.”

Set a reasonable risk set point. In the book, Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales, the author observes that most of us have a risk tolerance threshold or set-point. If circumstances change to lower the risk, we’ll raise the ante with our words or actions to bring risk levels back up to our personal comfort zone. Many of us will actually provoke change just to get some excitement brewing! We often forget, especially in a leadership role, that our “rope” is tied to others on our team who won’t be able to stop the fall should the leader lose his footing. At the very least, it puts them in a highly stressed environment and keeps the cortisol levels higher than need be. Short term thinking shuts down when cortisol floods our systems and that’s no way to treat a team!

Be as cautious coming down the hill as on the way up. More accidents happen to people as they’re climbing back down because they feel they’ve already reached their goal – the summit. Oh contraire! The real goal is to get down safely. So let’s not be seduced by that sense of relief, sunny skies, singing birds and the wind in our hair! Let’s pay just as much attention so we don’t lose our footing during implementation and post-change gap-analysis as we did during the ascent.

Adopt a positive mental attitude by helping others. In life or death situations, doctors and nurses tend to have higher survival rates. In addition to being better trained, they’re also focused on helping others, which takes their minds off their own concerns. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we slide quickly towards depression and apathy. We feel like we have no control over circumstances and once we adopt a mindset of “Who cares, anyway?”, we’re doomed.

Instead, it’s better to channel our energy towards helping others adapt. The result of this service-oriented mindset? We become stronger and find it much easier to maintain a positive mental attitude, no matter what life and business throws our way!