March 2024     Edition 174
Navigating Change: Understanding the Dynamics and Seven Key Actions

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Let's look at change through a critical thinking lens.


Change is defined as the act of making, doing, or becoming something different.

"Change" can be as simple as changing where you place your keys at night to changing jobs or relationships.


Let's say you get a new manager, a new application to use, or a modified process to use, or you move to a new city, get a new doctor, get married, get divorced, have kids, move to a new house, or your favorite coffee flavor is discontinued. The list is endless. Change is everywhere.


Generally speaking, most people really don't like it when things change, and for very straightforward reasons.


Reason 1

Humans are pattern machines. Humans like repeatable steps, and you get very good at them after a short time. I'm sure you can remember a time when you had to do something new and had to repeat it many times (sending holiday cards, using a new piece of software, even eating on one side of your mouth due to dental work). It starts out awkward and inefficient, but you establish a work pattern after a while, and things become more "automatic." You create a patterned process. Patterns allow you to predict the next step. You know what to do next automatically. Once you know the pattern, you will find that it requires almost no thinking, just doing. The more practice you have, the better you get. This applies to sports, playing a musical instrument, and even getting used to a new neighborhood. Then, change comes along, and it breaks the pattern. You must think. You may not be able to predict what's next, and you must find and learn a new pattern. Finding new patterns takes time and work and is certainly not what most people have an abundance of or wish to do.


Reason 2:

Based on your knowledge (facts, observations, and experiences), you make assumptions about what was, what is, or what will be.
Based on those assumptions, you come to a conclusion about what to do. The more facts, observations, and experiences you have, the more confidence you'll have in your assumptions and, subsequently, your conclusions. Then something changes, and what happens? You may not have the knowledge you need to form a conclusion. You don't have experience in that new thing. So, the breath of facts, observations, and experience is greatly diminished. You're no longer confident in the assumptions you can make; you might not even be able to make assumptions. As a result, the confidence in the conclusions you form about what to do, what to say, and how to move forward is very weak. You're not sure what to do. Change has messed you up.


Change upsets the pattern, reduces confidence in your assumptions and, subsequently, your conclusions.


How do you overcome this?


1. Have confidence in yourself.

Think back about the hundreds, probably thousands, of changes that have occurred throughout your life. You've managed your way through it, things work out, and life moves on
not necessarily easily, but there IS a future. Trust that you'll work it out, things will work out, and while you may not initially know the way, there is a way.


With this attitude, you can be OK with ambiguity and uncertainty and then focus on what to do about it.


2. You need to bolster the information you have

to allow you to make confident assumptions. Gain facts and observations through research, take a course, find a mentor, etc.


3. Invest the time to gain experience

. Figure out how you can gain experience. If you get a new manager, arrange an informal meeting to get to know them. If you're faced with learning a new system or application, invest the time to learn it well.
If you've moved to a new neighborhood, spend a good deal of time walking around, meeting your neighbors, finding the local stores, etc.


4. Validate your assumptions.

With #2 and #3, you can make assumptions. Now, validate those assumptions. For example, if you're faced with a new process or application to learn, once you think you've figured it out, validate your thinking with a subject matter expert who might just say, "That's right, that's exactly how you do it," or maybe they provide guidance if you're not spot on.


5. Look for opportunity.

While you might miss the "old way," look for the benefits of the change.
It might be learning, growth, or future opportunities. Look for the glass half full instead of half empty.


6. Expect setbacks.

You will make mistakes, hit walls, and question your ability.
Coping with change is not a straight line. Remind yourself of your past successes (#1 above).


7. Change pro-actively.

If you know that change is coming, don't necessarily wait for it to happen; instead, be proactive and plan how you'll deal with it.


The Takeaway.
Most people don't like change because it upsets the balance. Those who claim they like change usually have a high sense of confidence in their ability to figure things out (#1 above). While you may not like the change, and it might even adversely affect your current status, position, lifestyle or relationships, remember that there's always a way forward, you just have to spend the effort to find it.
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