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Making Sense Of A Constantly Changing World

Modifications or shifts tend to make people uncomfortable or hesitant at first.

Those familiar with change management will know it is a systematic approach that equips people working in organizations to prepare for constant change. This is considered a key initiator for growth and innovation. While this can be a stated aim, many leaders also know a change in any form is resisted: by individuals and teams within organizations.  

Why does change draw such a strong response? After all, change is simply a shift from an existing state or condition to something different. It is an alteration in the status quo. 

Modifications or shifts tend to make people uncomfortable or hesitant at first. The instinct to resist or delay change kicks in whether the change is voluntary or involuntary or has a negative or positive outcome because it triggers feelings of fear, anxiety, or uneasiness. Sometimes change does bring excitement, joy or enthusiasm, but even then, wholeheartedly embracing change is touch and go mostly because many of us are not equipped to handle or welcome change easily. 

Harvard University researchers and authors of the book Immunity to Change, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey found that people encounter barriers when trying to accept change. They link it to strongly held beliefs, usually a result of assumptions that triggers a fight-or-flight response when anything threatens the status quo.  

However, a constantly evolving world requires us to develop the muscle to accept change. If the year 2020 has highlighted anything it is this fact: no matter what feelings or emotional responses it brings, change is the only constant in our world. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher in the 5th century BC, called out this universal truth and now, centuries later we are still trying to figure why we resist change if it is so constant and prevalent.  

To be more accepting of change, we have to condition ourselves to navigate our ever-evolving world by viewing every swing from a fixed position to an unknown one as an opportunity to learn something new. We have to be open to unlearning or leaving a strongly-held belief and relearn how to apply what we know in a different circumstance, situation or even profession. We have to devise ways to develop a mindset to overcome challenges brought by change and turn them into opportunities.  

We have to step out of our comfort zone to embrace the challenge, which change brings. We must constantly strive to stay in the learning zone by not over-generalizing or jumping to quick and faulty conclusions when faced with involuntary change or a negative outcome of change. We have to build our resilience to effectively deal with setbacks that came as a result of the change.

Many of us, again, don’t know how resilient we are or how to become resilient until circumstances test us. For Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, this test came in the form of a personal tragedy, when her husband passed away. In her book, Option B, co-authored with organizational psychologist Adam Grant, Sheryl says she learned resilience isn’t innate or limited. It’s like a skill that needs to be developed over time. 

A personal setback helped Sandberg realize this; a global setback and the changes it is ushering in can be our wake-up call to actively work on building resilience. It is the only way we will be more accepting of change and in the wake of that move towards growth, for the world and for ourselves.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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