I remember years ago my father said to me, “The only thing constant in life is change.” We change with each breath we take and with every moment we live. In fact, your body is not the same as it was when you started reading this article; you are older.
Change is all around us and is present in everything we do. Change takes us out of our comfort zone, allowing us to explore the world. It can be simultaneously invigorating and difficult. We humans are creatures of habit, so it is no wonder that many of us fight change on conscious and unconscious levels. It requires effort and is active.
Large changes are easily recognized, but we tend to ignore the small changes, the attempts—successful and unsuccessful—that pave the way for larger change. Just as baby steps are important when learning to walk, attempts are important for many reasons. Small attempts can facilitate the change process: they are often our first passes at breaking out of the box, they build confidence, and they can show us that a perceived failure might really be success in another wrapper!
When was the last time you made a conscious decision to make a change, to try something new? Take an inventory; everything counts. Maybe you considered a different perspective when answering a question, ordered a new meal at your favorite restaurant, walked to work a different way, or used the stairs instead of the elevator. Each choice that varied from what you usually do was a change, presenting an opportunity for new experiences and the potential for growth.
Here are some questions that may help you embrace change.
What new, unexpected possibilities were presented by your decision to make a change?
When you try something new, often there are unintended outcomes. Maybe you took a different route to work and saw beautiful flowers that made you feel happy. Maybe you have been using the stairs instead of the elevator and have noticed that you have not been craving candy in the afternoons, leading to welcome weight loss and more energy. Did you know that penicillin, dynamite, microwave ovens, X-rays, Velcro, and insulin were all discovered accidently?
How did you feel the last time you tried something new? Were you anxious, joyful, confused, elated, tired?
Take time to consider your reactions to change and how you feel about them. Do you want to react differently next time? Were you happy with how adaptable you were? Does a negative reaction to change worry you?
Common reactions to change include becoming defensive, shutting down, and fighting the change. If you notice yourself reacting in this way, step back and take a breath. Try to shift perspective and become curious. Ask a lot of questions. When you ask questions and are in a place of curiosity, there is no room for judgment or negativity. You might be surprised to find there is something in the change that pleases you!
Did you give yourself credit for venturing out of the box?
Did you ignore your effort? Did you beat yourself up because you were unsuccessful? The act of changing, no matter the magnitude of the move, should be your focus. Try to shift focus from the end goal to the process and see what is different for you—and remember to acknowledge your effort!
What did you learn from an attempted change?
There is learning in everything we experience; the trick is recognizing it. Ask yourself what is different as a result of your attempt.
How might your attempt at change differed had you approached it from another perspective?
How we show up to any situation is very powerful. When we walk into a situation, we infuse it with our energy. For example, if you are angry when you begin a meeting, other people in the room will “catch” your mood and likely become tense and closed. Instead, explore coming from a perspective of curiosity. If you are curious, you will emit a very different energy. Curiosity can be a great way to begin to understand differing points of view. When you are curious, you are in a learning and exploring space, unfolding information. What environment will you create today?
Remember that change does not have to be big to be effective. Attempting something can be more powerful than achieving a big goal. A failed attempt or taking the time to look at unintended results may be the catalyst for a major discovery. What change will you make today?
Denise King Gillingham, LMSW, ACC, CPM, is a certified coach and mediator. Denise creates and delivers programs for corporations and organizations throughout the United States and Europe on social and emotional intelligence and nonviolent communication. Her coaching clients span all corners of the globe and all walks of life, from the international business executive to the stay-at-home mom. Denise has coached more than 500 clients. She received her MSW degree from Columbia University and has worked as a family therapist at The Paine Whitney Clinic in New York. She earned an advanced certification in systems and relationship coaching and is CTI certified. She has also been a substance abuse therapist at the Bronx VA Medical Center in New York and had a private therapy practice in Prague, Czech Republic. Prior to receiving her MSW, Denise held various leadership roles in the financial services industry. Contact Denise at dkgcoaching.com.