Published on November 14th, 2016 | by Nancy F. Clark0
How To Keep Changes From Breaking You
By Andrea Simon—
It’s impossible to ignore that we are living in an era of rapid and relentless change — societal, demographic, economic, and of course, personal.
As a corporate anthropologist, I often work with companies on how to use “a little anthropology” to help them see their business problems with fresh eyes in order to drive change.
This same approach can be helpful when navigating changes in one’s personal and professional life. Wherever it’s coming from, change is quite literally pain, but by using an anthropologist’s toolkit, you can alter the equation, master the change and ultimately triumph.
How to turn the pain of change into pleasure so that change doesn’t break you.
How do you do this? First, begin by realizing that your brain is simply not happy dealing with change…the new, the novel. It works very well with the habits you have mastered and prefers things to stay the way they are, thank you very much. Why change?
Recently, the neurosciences have begun showing us just how the brain reacts to change. It actually puts up a struggle, backed up by chemistry asking you to stop the new or the different and get back to letting the old familiar habits drive you. (I often tell people that change is a lot like learning a new role in a play. You don’t want to improvise. You want to learn the script and have time to rehearse it or you are going to feel uncomfortable, awkward and resistant to the new role you’re being asked to embrace—unless you’re in an Improv Group!)
But like it or not, changes are coming—faster and faster—and you’re going to have to help your brain deal with them. The best way to do this is with a story.
Create a story to explain changes to yourself and others.
In order to craft a new story to help your brain absorb and accept change, there are four hurdles to overcome:
Motivational hurdle. This is the resistance that comes from the emotions. Since we decide with emotions and then justify with reason, let’s begin with those emotions. First, quiet your mind. Consciously tamp down those instinctive fight-or-flight reactions connected to change so that you can actually address the changes.
Cognitive hurdle. This is the one that challenges you to explain to yourself why you have to change. Pull together the facts or logic to support the changes you are going to have to make. What are the reasons why it is really essential or non-negotiable? Once you convince yourself that the reasons are valid, you can address the resistance to them.
Resource hurdle. Probably without you even being aware of it, your brain will find numerous reasons why you simply cannot find the resources to make the changes (time, money or staff, to name a few). While this is a common roadblock to dealing with change, in many cases there are things you are spending resources on that you can actually eliminate or reduce in order to shift your focus and invest elsewhere so that change can happen.
Political hurdle. I once heard someone say, “They shot me down before I even stood up.” Sadly, how true. Political hurdles come from the social world you live in, whether it’s your family, your club or where you work. People like to keep you where you have always been, even when you want or need to change. For you to overcome these political pressures, you will need to become very intentional about the changes you are going to make…not casual or “someday.” Begin with exactly how you are going to change — have a game plan. Then build in signals of small wins that will underscore how the “new” is better than the old.
Your brain has a great story about the past. It needs a new one about the future.
Don’t stop telling the story. It is what is going to make the changes come together into a far more positive and exciting “new you.” And as you craft it and communicate it, you will find yourself mastering the changes that at the outset looked like they were going to break you.
Then, armed with a story, a great deal of fortitude and now some knowledge about how the brain works, you’re ready to take on any challenge, and any change. Go get ‘em!
Andrea Simon, Ph.D., principal and founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC). You can reach me @SimonAndi, #CorpAnthro or [email protected] to share your story. I look forward to hearing from you.