Managing Yourself, How to Embrace Complex Changes

Managing Yourself, How to Embrace Complex Changes

I wish that I had read this article when Peggy and I were making our move from The Valley to Norfolk. The author provides great advices in terms of looking at and dealing with change whether it is a move, changing jobs, or changes in your family.

The author suggests that when thinking about navigating change use what she called the Seven C’s:

  • Complexity—considering all the issues at play in a change effort
  • Clarity—understanding and prioritizing those issues
  • Confidence—believing that the change can be made successfully
  • Creativity—brainstorming innovative solutions to problems that arise
  • Commitment—taking the first steps to implement the change
  • Consolidation—leaving the previous identity to adopt the new one
  • Change—living into the change and its consequences

I don’t think that Peggy and I are much different than others, in that when we have opportunities for changes in our life we create a matrix with the positives and negatives of the prospect. The author takes this step further when she suggests that we first embrace the complexity of making a change and seek the advice of a third-party. Peggy and I are lucky to have colleagues that we use for our sounding boards. One of the things I would add to this process is that we need to be open and not dismiss advice that doesn’t agree with what we think we want to do. In the end, the author suggests an effective approach is “envisioning a successful outcome.”

An important step in dealing with change is seeking clarity about those factors that cause us anxiety. The author suggests that the better we understand those factors the less anxious we will be.   In some ways, in defining and clarifying our concerns, we are better able to deal with our them.

In making a change, you need to have the confidence that you are prepared and capable in dealing with the challenges that will come as part of the change. Let’s face it – change is hard and comes with many unexpected challenges. From my experience many of these challenges are items you simply hadn’t anticipated. I think each of us builds confidence in our decisions in many different ways; from an encouraging word from a colleague to “resolving a minor problem associated with the change.”

In my mind it is hard to embrace change without having the ability to be creative in responding to the new problems the change presents. One of the ways that I’ve dealt in facing problems associated with a new job,is seeking out individuals on campus that I can trust to provide a perspective, usually a historical perspective related to the problem. This information is very helpful in providing guidance to how you might invest your time and efforts in those first few months.

The next step in embracing change is making the commitment. Your commitment is to a course of action that you will do your best to implement. It is that time in which you know you are closing off other options and saying to yourself, “I am moving forward.   I’m all in with what I am about to do.” The author indicates that executives tell her “it’s helpful to think about their decision not as right or wrong but as a different path.” Pesonally, this notion extremely helpful. Once you are all in about the change, you need to reach a point of no longer “weighing the pros and cons of the decision” because you are now working to make the change successful. I liken this to the notion of moving to the point of having “no buyers remorse.” You’ve made the decision based on the best information you had and now work on making it successful.

I think that this next phase, consolidation, is often the hardest for me. This is the phase in which you need to begin to let go of the “previous situation so that new possibilities can arise.” In some ways this is where you begin to unlearn some things so that you can learn something new. What makes this difficult is needing to set aside “some aspects of your old identity” allowing you to adapt to the new. I had a heck of a time finding myself using the name of my previous institution and still referring the old institution as “we.” Some of this is simply habit and after catching myself a few times I am very clear my “we” is ODU. The author recommends “ some individuals get through this stage by focusing not on what they’ve lost but on what they’ve gained.” For me, I don’t think it needs to be an on/off switch because I still have strong positive feelings for the people I’ve worked with and use those experiences in making my change that much more successful.

Change is the last “c.” I particularly like the phrase the author uses in describing this phase. “The final step in the process is living into the change, savoring its positive outcomes while dealing with any unintended consequences or new challenges that arise.” The phrase “living into the change” describes perfectly what I’ve experienced. One of the changes Peggy and I have been through is having our kids leave home and find partners. Early on it is difficult knowing you have to share your kids with their partners and their families but we’ve been lucky because as we began the process of “living into the change” we’ve actually enlarged our family to include lots of wonderful people.

The author ends the article with a nice reminder, now that you’ve survived/thrived through the change we must recognize that we are not at “a static state” and that “you must also be on the lookout for new opportunities that may lead to your next change effort.”

Way back in my undergraduate days, I had a friend and roommate that would remind me “the only constant in the world is change.” I know this has become one of those over used phrases but darn, it is so true and for me thank goodness this is the case. Interestingly a friend told me today that I remind her of her father because he was described by and proud of the title: “Never Leave Well Enough Alone!” Come to think about it, isn’t that a great description for a professional continuing educator? We are always looking the best way to serve our constituents so we will never leave well enough alone.


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