Who were we trying to kid before COVID? We have always lived in times of uncertainty! We lulled ourselves into believing that we were in control, and COVID-19 has reminded us that we are not. We never were. We never will be. Life is inherently uncertain.
Sure, we can influence our future, we can make plans, but as Forrest Gump should have said, “Change happens.” And it will…when we least expect it. Change is one of the few things that we can be certain about. We have no choice but to accept it – good change, bad change, even change that we didn’t ask for.
Consequently, our ability to thrive through change; to embrace the inevitable changes that lie ahead – is the key skill that every one of us needs to hone – at work and in life.
1. Acknowledge the inevitability of change. This may sound obvious. It isn’t. Change is not a project, nor is it temporary. Even the much-touted post-COVID “new normal” will be transitory. Change is constant. It is a part of life.
2. Appreciate that all change is emotional. The strong, often negative, emotions we experience during times of dramatic change are also inevitable – and entirely normal. We undergo a rollercoaster of emotions as we travel through the Burning Platform Change Curve – shock, denial, anger, fear and various forms of hopelessness before we move up the curve towards understanding and acceptance. These are emotions are not only OK, they are necessary.
3. Detach and observe. We can overcome so many of our emotional barriers to change through the simple act of observation. Sitting back and observing our negative thoughtsand emotions – without any judgment whatsoever – will help us to realise they are not us. They are just thoughts.
4. Attitude is everything. It is easy to feel powerless when big change is done to us. But we are not powerless at all, for we are in control of one crucial factor – how we react to the change – and this can make all the difference.
5.Build confidence in your future based on an assessment of your past experience and what makes you special – your key strengths and skills. Hope based on empty wishes is hollow. Hope based on the reality of the strengths that lie within you is real.
6. Know that you can be your own change leader. Even in the darkest of moments, you can be your own change catalyst; your own leader of change. You have the power to help yourself. When you find yourself in the trough of the change curve, by all means sympathise and empathise with yourself. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself; to acknowledge the fact that this change is not something you asked for and yes, may indeed be completely unfair.
But then, when you can sense that the time is right, look at yourself in the mirror and ask your reflection the magic question that will unlock your future; the question that will instantly put you in the driver’s seat during even the most disruptive and traumatic change.