How To Deal with Change You Didn’t Want

Some of us are feeling enthusiastic about the result of the U.S. election, others of us are deeply disturbed about the road ahead.

Many of us have to deal with change we didn’t want to happen – whether it’s a merger in your company,  a move to a new office space, a break up of a relationship that wasn’t your choice  – or an election result that leaves you feeling you don’t have a voice.

The essence of these situations is that you didn’t feel in control over it happening.  The more you control what you CAN control, the easier it will be to be resilient in the situation.

Here are 7 research-based strategies I have used to cope with change I didn’t want and guidelines for how you can too:

1. Move it through – You have physical responses to strong emotion.  Feel them, and move them through your body.   Anger turned inward causes depression so ‘get it out!’  Physically move the stuck and stressed feelings through your system (I do vigorous exercise.)  Process with people in your community. Or focus inward by writing about your reactions.  Express yourself creatively through artistic efforts, or through rituals (the election protesters could be considered an example of people expressing their voice). Give yourself permission to practice extra self care because you are processing a lot of new information and emotion.

2. Focus on what you can control – Unwanted change activates the emotional part of our brain because we experience it as a threat to our sense of control, our sense of fairness, our sense of status, or our connection to others.  Your initial emotional response has less access to critical thinking.  You’ll tend to jump right to catastrophizing with worst case scenarios, which makes it worse.   I try to use critical thinking: what actually will be different in my life? And what will be the same?  Usually you’ll see that what will be the same far outweighs what will be different, so you can focus on appreciating what will be the same and try to problem solve around the things that will be different.

3. Right action replaces fear.  Look for opportunities where you can make a difference (I’ve heard of groups already organizing around the 2018 elections to feel they are doing something) Step up to do more to create the micro-environment around you.  If you are concerned about the culture in your organization or country, what are you doing to create the culture you want on your team, in your family, etc?  Are you a role model, have you educated yourself on what approaches work, etc? Use this as an opportunity to dig deeper and be more of the person you want to be.

4. Find the silver lining – Instead of only focusing on what’s unpleasant about the situation, ask “what’s in it for me?” or “what could be a silver lining here?” Here’s one from a woman who coached with me after I gave training on resilience for salespeople undergoing a merger at a large pharmaceutical company. She was demoralized, having been passed over for promotion by the new incoming manager and was ready to leave.   She decided that her #1 priority was to regain her fitness and health.  She started to workout in the morning and bring healthy lunches while she enjoyed the stability of staying with the sales routes she knew.  After 3 months she reached her weight and health goals, and it bought her enough time for the incoming manager to see her talents and promote her.  Notice how she approached what looked like a professional obstacle as a personal opportunity – and created a win-win situation for and her employer.

5. Realistic optimism – Research indicates that the most effective mindset for resilient leadership is one of Realistic Optimism.   President Obama and Secretary Clinton modeled realistic optimism in their remarks to the country after the election.  If you are in a leadership position during times of change, the best message you can give is to share out loud your recognition of the challenges coupled with why you are optimistic about the future.

6. Display an Opportunity seeking mindset – Opportunities open up during times of shifting currents.  Have an opportunity-seeking mindset – Be on the lookout for new gaps so you can step in or step up to.  For example, you might have an opportunity to take on new roles if you could learn new skills,   or you could outfox your competitors if you get trained to offer a value add service.

Learn new skills that will make you successful in the new conditions.  One of the biggest learnings in this election comes from the success in influencing by Donald Trump. He was able to deeply reflect the concerns of his constituents and provide a sense of hope that he would provide solutions.   Whoever LISTENS the most closely to their customers/clients/patients/voters, etc will always have the most influence.

Are you listening deeply to your customers/clients/patients?   Are you listening deeply to the trends in your organization/industry?  Are you observing where the resources are flowing in your organization or finding a niche amongst people who are spending these days?

7. Remember your power.  Remember that no-one and no-thing outside of you has the power to make you feel any other way than the way you decide to feel inside yourself!

Hope this helps you navigate unwanted change,


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