Riding the Waves of Change

leadership management mental health personal growth professional development Jun 01, 2017

If you have ever gazed at the ocean for awhile, you saw it change with every wave that came to shore. Life is like that; waves of change come along, sometimes small and sometimes gigantic, and nothing is exactly the same after that.

There is a myth in our culture that promotes the notion that people hate change. The truth is – people love change! People change their clothes, hairstyle, and favorite restaurant. They rearrange their furniture, travel to new places and do things to add variety to their lives on a regular basis.

There is, however, a type of change that people don’t like: that is any change they have little to no control over. In today’s world, we no longer have a guarantee of lifetime employment and technology has revolutionized the workplace. Many of us have heard the dreaded words, “Our company is switching to a new computer system,” and all of a sudden you are fearful that you’re going to feel frustrated and confused for a long time.

It seems that nothing stays the same for very long, so those who are unable to effectively “ride the waves” will likely find themselves treading water until they begin to sink.

So, how do you stay afloat? Here are several tips to help you ride the waves of change.

1. Jump in and stay engaged. Staying on the outside often leads to resentment and a sense of powerlessness. Ask questions, listen and participate. Don’t be stubborn about wanting to do what you’ve always done.

2. Be prepared for a reaction. Don’t be surprised to experience sadness, joy, anger, laughter, crying, confusion, discomfort, excitement, etc. – it’s normal!

3. Identify and express your emotions. Unacknowledged and unexpressed emotion causes stress and will make the change process painful. Embrace your feelings without letting them control your actions.

4.  Monitor your attitude. The change may be out of your control, but choosing your attitude is totally up to you. Much of your success in riding the wave depends on how you choose to be affected.

5.  Maintain flexibility and go with the flow. Resistance only prolongs the process. For a surfer, paddling against the waves is a lot harder than riding them back to shore. Get on board quickly so you can move ahead.

6.  Hold on to something familiar. Stick with your normal routine as much as possible, including your diet, sleep and exercise. If things are changing at work, try to maintain a stable home life to regain your balance.

7.  Enlist the support of others – friends, co-workers and family. Sometimes talking with someone who has weathered some changes in their own lives can help make the change seem more manageable. If you need to vent your feelings, go to someone you trust to listen without stirring up gossip or other trouble in your workplace.

8.  Manage the big change in small steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. List the tasks involved (notify customers, pack up or rearrange your work space, attend training, fill out pertinent documents, etc.) to keep track of details.

9.  Find the good in the change. There is usually something that can be learned from every loss or adjustment that will help us to continue to grow and mature.

10. Know that the difficulties will end. This too shall pass. Eventually the change will bring about a “new normal” and you will settle in to it.

So, given that constant change is a reality we all must face at times, we must re-adjust our attitude and be ready to begin learning about and enjoying the new adventure. Don’t waste your time and energy looking back at something that is no longer real.  Grab your surfboard – after all, the top of the wave is the best view of the ocean!

What was the most dramatic change you have had to make through no choice of your own? Would you add any other tips for someone facing a change?  Let us know in the comments below!

Live, Work & Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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