Handling change is a critical skill for anyone. If you're alive, you're handling change all the time. But some life circumstances throw change at us faster than others. How we deal with it can be the difference between freaking out and settling in.
When I returned to the world of those who work with other humans in close quarters toward common goals I resumed the practice of some skills and started cultivating others in new ways. In addition to attending meetings and being held accountable for revenue and expenses, I now have the privilege of helping several people grow careers that are fulfilling and meaningful. One of the strong women I work with recently asked me, within the context of her performance and our team's changing focus, "How have you dealt with all the changes?"
We work in an extremely fast-paced web-based environment, where technology and market forces can conspire overnight to change fundamentals in our business. And we have a company culture of moving with the changes. It's what we do. But my colleagues question caught me off guard. I can't remember what I said at the time, and I wasn't satisfied with my answer. I've been thinking about the question all week. How do I deal with change?
The truth is I have no idea, because I don't know any other way but change.
Step 1: Freak Out
During a two month period in 2013 I went back to work full time, my husband changed jobs after 13 years at the same company, my daughter switched from her big public school to a small charter, and we moved to a new house (before selling the old house). It was all very exciting and terrifying. But it was also just the way of my world.
My first job out of college was in consulting. Nothing static about switching projects, managers, and clients every 6-12 weeks. Then I had two babies and mommy-tracked over to the tax department. Big city tax work was very dynamic. Not so much at a regional firm. So I left. Because I craved change. Next came years of freelance writing, editing, publishing, speaking, content strategy and social marketing consulting. Never the same day twice.
Still, all those changes a couple of years ago had me spinning. I didn't handle it all very well. I got overwhelmed. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. My husband tells me this is all a very normal part of something called the J Curve. I called it freaking out.
Step 2: Relax and make a [new] plan
I've been obsessed with the question of how to deal with change because I'm a sucker for systems. I LOVE my routines. It's Sunday as I write this. I've stocked the refrigerator and pantry. I know more or less what our family will eat for dinner every day this week. I have 5 outfits hanging in my closet that I don't have to think about (thank you, capsule wardrobe), and I've walked my dog and hit my yoga mat today because it's part of my routine. I live by these routines. But I also live to change them. (That's a huge part of my love for Arkansas, by the way, the fact that there are distinct seasons here, natural delineations for changes in routine.)
The only thing I love more than a routine is a new routine. The only thing better than a great spreadsheet is a new great spreadsheet.But for me, when things are in flux, my need for order asserts itself. No sooner has change descended than I have a 7-point plan. And maybe a flowchart. The new plan might not work for long, but that's okay, because we'll need a new one soon anyway.
Step 3: Let go and repeat
Here's the trick: Make the plans. Map the process, but don't get too attached. Because you know what they say about our puny human plans. God thinks they're funny. Embrace routines. Court stability. Of course. But when change comes along, take a deep breath-- and make a new spreadsheet.
So, how do you manage change?