One of the toughest things to do is navigate change. First of all, very often, we don’t know what the final destination is. Second, we probably don’t have a clue how to get there. In life, when you are a young unattached adult, you have ample opportunity to explore, as adults with responsibilities (family, organisational and friends) it becomes harder and this becomes a significant source of stress.
What are some signs that change is needed? First of all be in touch with your feelings. If you are unhappy, if you lose your sense of wonder at small things and can’t find a moment when you feel peace…perhaps these are signs you need a change (even if it scares the living daylights out of you)! Yes I have heard of the “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” theory before but the indicator is your feelings. Your feelings are perhaps an innate call to ask you to rediscover your purpose and without this – you are really adrift in a sea of humanity.
Sometimes health, personal family conditions, financial conditions, or work itself are all reasons that trigger a desire for change. One of the most challenging things you will have to face is be ruthlessly honest that the outcome you long for is really in your best interests. Too many times short term thinking leads to long term pain. Relationships are fundamental to happiness so you have to evaluate what matters and why.
Next comes the change itself…from a management point of view there are three types of change. You can read more in this McKinsey Article . I have adapted this because you can’t keep personal and professional lives separate as hard as you try as they tend to creep into each other’s space. I suggest go through the stages sequentially if you have the luxury of time as they cause minimum disruption this way.
- People remain the same but objectives change:
You give yourself new tasks like sky diving, eat more healthy, joining a gym. My experience has been that these “diversions” are often temporary as you never got to the source of why you needed the change in the first place. Does it make you happier? I had a friend who put herself first is all situations. She regularly “treated herself” to little indulges because it was a reward for a tough day. This for me was a bit strange but then I realised I had spent a great part of my life chasing and trying to catch up with responsibilities leaving me exhausted and tired. I wrote a list of what made me happy. Movies, books, walks, travelling etc and now I reward myself. I spend the time in the airport reading (not catching up with email). I make time for a movie and put the phone on silent (I could have been in a meeting) and I linger over dinner with the kids. In fact, during my busy career days, the kids grew up and now I am pleasantly surprised at the mature discussions we can have on business, politics and their lives! It leaves me fulfilled. Once I made these changes on the personal side, I could look at work and do exactly the same. I learnt to say no, prioritise and limit meetings with no purpose. I have still too many goals but I love what I do so that is half the battle!
2. You adjust your existing mindset and change some behaviours:
Learning is part of this. An occasional training, a break from a tense situation to reflect and weigh positives and negatives is important. To learn you need time and commitment. I thought I was busy with too much work, it turned out I kept myself busy to avoid taking decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading and love to learn new things but the greatest pleasure was from formal learning environments where I could see an outcome and I met people – I learnt vegetable carving (and use it for parties), a new language (research says it keeps the brain young) and some more subject areas. I spent more time with mentors who challenged me and provoked me and taught me skills. On my own I was plodding along learning. Surprisingly my career is on track with a renewed focus in my personal life (happiness spills over). I have found one thing in life – no experience or education is wasted. I also found to create a mindset change I needed to take time to understand other’s point of view. This did not mean we could converge on a decision but it meant I had a better perspective of where they were coming from which is vital in negotiations in inter-cultural setups.
3. You change your mindset and the people around you and change your behaviours for the new goals:
This is harder as you have to influence others….and it takes time (we are talking years so you need to have sufficient reinforcements to not give up hope)! Sometimes things happen. Traumatic events – death, relationship breakdowns, health issues, career minefields …and you have to give yourself time to come to terms with the situation, to help you cope or even to make new friends who are willing to accept the new you. I have found employees struggle in one work place and move to another and become over achievers. It was a new context with no past to taint their future that allowed them to spread their wings and fly. It often means expanding your friend circle or at least relooking your old ones more closely. Find your champions and the people who will cheer you on. You need them to help you get to your finish line.