In praise of how we cope with change

I was chatting with a friend and work colleague this morning – we had a good catch up. We talked about work and compared notes, as you do. We asked about what each other had been doing outside work and about our work / life balance. It was a life affirming chat. Thanks Steve!

My friend commented on how my personal life was so utterly different 5 years ago. The polar opposite to the way it now is. And we commented on the fact that my attitudes have altered and that I’m very happy with my current life.

And then it struck me. I, like many people before me, have welcomed and embraced that same change.

But if somebody had explained that in just 5 years I’d:

  • move from a part of the country and from a home I expected I would always live in to a different part of the country
  • move away from friends I love
  • prepare to move homes again within that area
  • marry
  • have two children
  • establish an unanticipated new phase of life along with its’ associated commitments (a new mortgage, bigger than I’ve had before, rather than be debt free)

then…I would not have believed it. I’d have ridiculed it, denied it and doubted the sanity of that person.

And isn’t that denial exactly what we see displayed by so many people facing change in their work lives?

So maybe the statement which I often hear related; ‘People always fight change’ just isn’t true.

It’s perhaps more appropriate to say that as humans we continually deal with change and adapt to it. Time doesn’t stand still. We don’t always exist in idyllic sun-kissed, worry-free, young and innocent days of childhood play. Ones in which everything is possible and we dream every day.

Actually we go to school, suffer puberty, get bullied or picked on for being different, leave school, leave our parental homes, try, fail, succeed, work, move homes, love, get hurt, learn and move on. We change and grow and strive to exercise control rather than submit to being blown by the winds.

That’s not the same as fighting change. It’s about wrestling to come to terms with change. It’s about control and human will power. And will power can be enormous. So when we face change at work, there’s a lot we can take comfort and strength from by reflecting on our personal life stories.

The real challenge change and learning and development professionals have, then, is making sure that we help people to feel in control and look on change in their work sphere as favourably as so many do on the change and growth in our personal sphere. As natural, inevitable, growth steps. In short, to view change as life.  Change to be embraced as an exciting dream unfolding.