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How our relationship with change can...change

It’s finally here! A new year, new resolutions, new beginnings, a possible end to the difficulties of the past few years, a chance to wipe the slate clean and look to the future – this is the time of year when we brush away the cheese and cracker crumbs and set new goals to guide us on our way – change is afoot.

I’ve always considered that a sunny disposition and my slightly gung-ho nature has made me something of a change champion, so I was surprised to hear my own mother, over Christmas lunch, matter of factly state that ‘Zoë has always hated change’, whilst a great deal of sage nodding from various family members ensued. Upon reflection, perhaps the younger version of myself (and the version that my parents knew at home until I flew the nest many moons ago) was indeed change resistant, but over the years there has been an evolution in my attitude and resilience throughout periods of perceived turbulence – my relationship with change has changed.

And this is a natural progression, as adults, we can deal with change better by anticipating what circumstances will be like by finding out everything we want to know about them beforehand, and by using our previous experiences to visualise what the future will hold. We learn to navigate the unexpected dilemmas that life throws at us and are more readily able to move on. We understand that if we keep doing things the same way we get the same results, time and time again. But I’m interested to understand what shift had to happen for me to move from actively fearing change (according to my mother!) to actively embracing it.

Circumstance has its place in understanding why I’ve adapted to change. Quite frankly, I’ve had to! It’s stating the obvious to say we live in changing times, because we do, and really we always have, I’m just a grown up now so those changes affect me more readily. Rather than see change as hard or something to be avoided, I’ve come to realise that the pace of change isn’t getting any slower and it’s not going away. There’s no point resisting it, so I might as well embrace it, and dare I say, learn to love it. I’ve learnt to see change as an opportunity, rather than a threat, and after all, it would be incredibly boring if nothing ever changed.

Mindset has definitely played a big part. Recognising the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset completely affects your worldview, and, in the case of a growth mindset, you know that you can change over time and therefore you are more open to reflect, learn and grow from challenges. Because failure is less threatening, you are more willing to embrace change, take feedback as a learning opportunity and continue to learn and grow throughout life. Setbacks are a very important element to our success as long as we pay attention to them. They allow us to learn and over time we can reach a place where we consistently feel better.

I really love the saying ‘Be curious, not furious’, and I think I’ve gradually moved away from reactivity – my default setting for much of early adulthood – with a concerted effort to avoid too much emotion and instead focus on information. Ultimately, surprise spells disaster for people seeking change. Knowing more about the process allows more control over it. So, with any form of change, and organisational change in particular, it’s important to communicate as much information as possible in order to avoid resistance or rumours or a desire to maintain the status quo. As a leader, I’ve always tried to be as candid as possible and encourage honest, purposeful, and respectful conversation. Having a clear, simple vision of the future and communicating what needs to change and why, helps those around you to commit to change, rather than simply comply.

And finally, understanding that the change itself may not be the issue, but rather the transition from the old to the new that can feel uncomfortable, has really helped me to adapt my attitude to change. Rather than simply rushing in and hoping that things move on quickly and painlessly, giving myself and those around me time to accept that something is ending before we even consider the implications of what is to come, helps us to understand and manage our own emotions at times of change.

Much has been written and researched about an individual’s response to change, and here at FizzPopBANG we love William Bridges Transition Model as he explores how change is external, it is simply the event that happens, whereas transition is internal, it is your personal response to change. Rather than comparing yourself to others and wondering why everyone else seems to find it so easy to move on (spoiler alert – they probably don’t!) giving yourself the time to reflect on what you need to let go of in order to move forward, is a powerful way to embrace change more readily.

My relationship with change has certainly… changed over the years. if you’d like to explore your own attitude to change, build relationships and flourish in times of uncertainty, join Francis Briers and I on February 9th 10am – 12pm online by following the link below, for our newest The Learning Collective workshop: Change for Good – how to flourish in a world of perpetual change.

by Zoë Cox, Client Director

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