“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” In his book, The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck goes on to say that what makes life difficult is the process of confronting and solving problems. And since life poses an endless series of problems, life is always difficult and as full of pain as well as joy.
The first time I read that quote, I promptly put the book down and it was months, not days or weeks, before I picked it up again. The dilemma was that I knew he was right. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t deny it. Don’t we grow up waiting and anticipating the time when we can become an adult and the driver of our own destiny? Hmm…..I don’t know about you, but my destiny didn’t include problems.
At first, I chose to focus on what I saw as the negative message. If I had chosen to focus on the positive, I would have realized, day one, that there is power in recognition and acceptance. If I accept the fact that life has difficulties, then I can prepare for them – financially, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. I can embrace a new belief where seeking the reality in a negative situation, allows me to prepare and make good decisions around it.
So, if I want to become better at accepting and dealing with change, what are the first “truths” around change that I need to recognize and accept?
TRUTH #1: Changes exist in each and every moment of the day.
Recent statistics in Elaine Biech’s book, Thriving Through Change suggest that:
· By 2020, our collective body of knowledge will double every 72 days.
· One weekly issue of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 17th century.
We are continuously bombarded with e-mails, tweets, google searches and (dare I mention) blogs at every turn. Each day we choose our actions and reactions to new information and circumstances. We make decisions. We change. Every minute, every hour, every day, we age. We don’t think about it. Maybe until we hit a big milesone birthday.
Jeff Feldman and Karl Mulle in Put Emotional Intelligence to Work clearly state in their book: “It goes without saying that change is pervasive in the workplace. Driven by rapidly advancing technologies, the need to stay competitive in the marketplace, and in some cases, by our own need to seek constant improvement, change is one of the greatest forces acting on us in the world today.”
Kathy Dempsey goes a step farther in her book SHED or You’re DEAD, “Life is all about change. Change is all about shedding. Shedding is all about letting go of the loss in order to gain something new. And just like the lizard, we must shed.” She goes on to explain that if a lizard refuses to shed, it dies. Choosing to learn, grow and live means choosing to accept change.
If you think your life is the same day in and day out and typically answer the question, “what’s new?” with “nothing much,” I challenge you to keep a journal for a week. Put down what you expect to occur at the start of each day and then write down what actually happened during the course of that day. Note how many times you had to make changes, solve a problem or do something differently from what you expected during that day. Note how many times you accepted a deviation from your plans based on some new information. Think about how much change your job or organization currently requires of you and is likely to ask of you in the future.
TRUTH #2: We are built to maintain the status quo and therefore, reject change
Our bodies are physically designed to remain constant, stable. Our emotional well-being, some suggest, has the same goal. Herzberg puts forth in his Theory on Motivation (also view Four Key Factors to Motivate/Re-engage Staff in a Recession) that employees have a built in drive to avoid pain (dissatisfaction) from the environment and Maslow suggests that the second basic need of every person is for safety and security. Hence, our physical and emotional self is dedicated to the pursuit of freedom from pain. Not just consistency, to be consistently free from pain, issues, problems, threats or danger.
Herein lies the problem. Today’s workplace, and life in general, requires us to be ready and able to accept and embrace changes that represent pain, problems and losses. We are now required to grow, learn new things and improve. Recognizing this inherent hard wiring allows you not only to accept your own limitations, but also illuminates the need to fight this tendency. Body builders recognize that our mind does not desire us to tear our muscles or inflict pain on ourselves, but it is that exact process that allows the body to build muscle mass and gain strength.
So ask yourself, what do I believe? Do I accept change as inherent in my life? Do I fight it, or recognize and accept it? Do I fight my own tendency to avoid pain, or see growth in pain? What feelings and emotions do I associate with change? Which types of changes affect me more than others? What’s my “change I.Q.?” Tune in next week as we explore “change intelligence” and what’s required for a high C.Q.
Preview our Change Management for Businesses workbook and training
Biech, Elaine, Thriving Through Change – A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery, ASTD Press, 2007.
Dempsey, Kathy B., SHED or you’re DEAD, Trey Press, 2003.
Feldman, Jeff and Karl Mulle, Put Emotional Intelligence to Work – Equip Yourself for Success, ASTD Press, 2007.
Peck, M. Scott, The Road Less Traveled, Touchstone Press, 2003 anniversary edition, 1978.
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