Is Change the Real Elephant in the Room?
Change is uncomfortable
Despite its existence from the time of birth, change is still ambiguous, and is threaded by many, yet it is a necessary developmental stage if we have to progress to the next level. Change is a necessity to transformation whether at personal, family, community, professional, institutional and country level. But the common denominator is the involvement of people, and their propensity to change. Given the chance the majority of people would rather skip the change. If change is for our good then why are many of us so afraid of it? My answer to this question is "control". Every individual whether we admit it or not loves control, especially of own circumstances and pace of life activities. But change takes away that control and makes us vulnerable to fear, fear that we are not good enough, fear that we don't have enough knowledge or information, or that we will fail or be laughed at. We are also afraid of loss or injury, and doubt our survival if and when the loss occurs. For example when we move to a new city, we are not sure how we will cope, whether we will have friends, or be able to find our way around. In the case of work,we are afraid that we may lose our jobs, lose our income and be unable to support our families. The bottom line is we lack adequate information of what to expect as a result of the changes, and that feeds our fears.
Overcome fear and become a change agent
First we need to accept that change is inevitable, and we either embrace it or become by standers or irrelevant in a fast changing world. To overcome the various fears, we need to anticipate change, the reason for the change, and learn as much as we can about the change, and how it will affect our life, then prepare to the extent possible. When we know what is coming and how it will affect us we will not be afraid of failure, and we can be more proactive in fast tracking the change because it does not pose any threat to our existence or welfare. If the change affects others, then we need to let them know about the change, how they will be affected and enlist their support in redesigning the new norms as this will reduce their resistance to that change. Even our children need to be enlisted in the process so that they may not experience trauma or stress. In the case of organizations, the most common mistake is adopting a top-down approach where only a few people at the top know the need for change, and they proceed to plan on the how without engaging subordinate members. In this case there is a vacuum of information, leading to speculation and rumors, which in turn leads to resistance and at worst sabotage. People need to be in control of the change situation, and they can only be in control if they have relevant information. Of course people will always be divided along positive and negative enthusiasts, and the former tend to be more open to change. The latter need a little nudging to clear their thoughts and emotions, and they need to see the potential gains rather than potential loss. Optimism or pessimism is usually derived from our life experiences, and cannot just be wished away by one "quick fix" information session. The pessimists, for example will need sessions of therapeutic nature before their minds can open up to change; they need reassurances that change will not reinvent their bad experiences, and in this case mentors will play a critical role.
Write your own script and change your story line
Many things are possible if we have an open mind; see and accept change as part of our everyday life. We might not have had a choice in where and what we were born into, but we have a choice to be different or be what we want to be. If you don't like where you are or where and how you are moving, you have the power to change. Change is not for its own sake, but for gains in terms of our status, welfare, health and wealth among other gains. So every time a change is introduce, the first question to ask is "what change? and what is the purpose or what are the expected gains?" Once that is clear then we can ask "how" and "when". We must be partners in the change process as opposed to passengers in order to gain optimum satisfaction and be consistent change agents. Everyone has potential to change, but the real challenge is how to harness that potential to produce meaning changes in families, communities and organizations. As we accept, anticipate and become lead change agents, we ought to accept change will not always produce positive results, sometimes we have to deal with such negative effects as anger, resistance, depression by ensuring presence of relevant support. So change is part and parcel of our lives, and through it we have a great opportunity to take back control and rewrite our stories.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Teresa Maru