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Stop resisting change and embrace the journey

Stop resisting change and embrace the journey

I had a moment a couple of weeks back – you know, the moment when you suddenly understand the deeper mysteries of life – well, it was profound and yet so simple.

Things change.

Yes, that’s it.

The profound yet simple insight that things change. People change, they age, mature, develop new interests and perspectives on life and others. Situations change, people come and go, cities and countries change. Accepted social norms change, technology changes, things change.

We know that.

But why do we work so hard trying to keep things the same, when we know things change? We actively work to maintain the status quo of our lives, our roles, our society.

I have the privilege of working with senior executives who find themselves in a change situation. Sometimes of their own accord, but often not. Their first instinct is to resist the change, or to find a new role, just like their last role.

So what is it about change that causes us to resist it so strongly? I firmly believe that it is fear – fear of the unknown. And we respond by attempting to assert control over our situation, our lives, our relationships, our fear, even our age. Although this is understandable, I would suggest that there is possibly a better way forward – we should embrace the fact that things change, and go along for the ride!

As the Dalai Lama so succinctly put it: “If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”

My role as an (individual) change strategist is to walk alongside my client and to be a fellow traveller on their journey. I can’t tell you how often I hear that a particular change situation has led to a positive outcome. In fact, most clients would say that they wished they had just relaxed more and not been so anxious about the change and where it was leading.

And why is that? Well, I think that it’s because we view the present situation – relationship, role, etc. – as a ‘destination’. We think we have arrived, in some way, and so, any movement from that destination is resisted, strongly.

I believe that we need to move from destination-thinking to thinking about the direction we are heading in, and would like to head in. And to understand, broadly speaking, whether we are heading in the ‘right’ direction, at this moment in time. To do this we do need to have a better sense of who we are, what makes us tick and gives us meaning, and we do need to have a sense of the direction we are heading – or would like to head. And this is hard.

So much of what we know about our life, career and roles, is founded in what society tells us, at school, university, or at our jobs. And so we don’t take time to understand ourselves. We move ‘accidentally’ and not intentionally.

And so we resist change.

That’s why it is so profound, yet simple – things change, that’s life.

Do the work to understand your drivers and the journey you’re on. Then trust the journey.

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Brian Gardner

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Brian Gardner is the general manager and managing principal for career consultancy firm The Donington Group.