The Answers to 5 Critical Questions about Personal Change
Read Time: 7 minutes, 15 seconds
One of the sureties of life is that change will happen: the seasons change, we grow older, other people come into and out of our lives. If change is that inevitable, how do we know when we ourselves need to change? How can change be more positive? How do we prepare for change? How do we get through it with our sense of self intact? How do we regroup when a change fails?
These are the critical questions about personal change that you want to answer in order to adapt to change.
How Do You Know Change Is Necessary?
Think about the last time you were ill. You had symptoms that you checked off to determine a self-diagnosis. Headache (check), runny nose (check), no fever (check), sneezing (check), no cough (check); this led you to the conclusion that your allergies are kicking in versus having a cold or the flu. Knowing signs of physical conditions is engrained in us. It’s the mental and emotional signs that we don’t know, sweep under the rug, or push through that create more stress in our lives.
Knowing the signs that change is necessary will help you determine what needs to change, how quickly you should change it, and clues to go about doing so.
- Mental signs: Lack of ideas on how to move on; an inability to think hopefully about the future; an inability to concentrate.
- Physical signs: Tension in the jaw, neck, or back; headaches; self-soothing in unhealthy ways (drugs, alcohol, binging); lack of energy; sleeping for long hours, insomnia.
- Emotional signs: Unrelenting anger or sadness; numbness; withdrawal from relationships; feeling of being stuck/without options or choice.
- Other signs: Refusal to consider alternatives (excuse-making); imagining that other people have perfect lives (comparing); blaming.
TIP: Check in on your body throughout the day. Start with your head (don’t forget your thoughts and feelings as well as your physical being), and end with the sensation of your toes in your shoes.
How Do You Increase the Potential of Positive Change?
Our brains interpret change as a threat. Even the smallest of changes at work, where your office is, for example, can send you in a tailspin where you convince yourself you’re about to get fired. There are four elements to increasing the potential of positive change: interrupting your thought patterns, elevating your motivation for change, increasing your ability to change, and the frequency of opportunities for change (practice makes perfect!).
- Interrupt thought patterns: select a single word, short phrase, mantra, prayer, proverb, or song lyrics to think when you find yourself being triggered by a change process.
- Elevate motivation: consider the positive effects the change will have on your life and write them down; practice positive visualization.
- Increase ability: look for training, support, and other resources that can help you navigate change- like this one:)
- Frequency of opportunity: opportunities for change often follow a greater motivation and ability for change as people realize you are ready for it so they offer more to you. You can also increase opportunities with such actions as networking in person and online; checking out the employment situation in an area where you want to move; or joining a group that offers support to people who want to make the same change that you do.
How Can You Prepare for Change?
A change may be very good and highly anticipated, like a wedding or a birth. Although it’s an exciting and positive change, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Change can be seen as stressful, no matter how much warning, how many positive feelings, and how much resilience you have. It is doubly stressful when it is unwelcome and unanticipated.
You will find that one or all of the following practices ease your stress over a coming change:
- List the positives: What we focus on sculpts our mindset. Making a list of the positive qualities ensures our view of the change is also positive.
- Take action: Any action, buying a new shirt for the first day at a new job, for example, will make you feel more in control and prepared, as long as it doesn’t undermine the change.
- Plan for the unseen: When you have a Plan B, your anxiety will drop.
- List the ways that the change will not affect your life: There is comfort in continuity in the midst of change.
- Rally your support group: Let them know that you may need more understanding while you deal with the new circumstances—you may need to contact them more often or sometimes less; you will receive better support if they know what will help.
TIP: When change intimidates you, take a deep breath, count to three, and keep going.
How Can You Support Yourself During Change?
Accepting that change is needed is the first step in successfully navigating change. The second step is believing that it is possible. Once you have prepared yourself, you must be ready to act. At that stage, the following will help:
- Give yourself time: You need to adjust to the change once it happens; do not rush through or upbraid yourself for needing the time you need.
- Keep a journal: If you are learning a new job, ending a bad habit, building a good habit, or making any other change, take notes so that you do not overlook those small accomplishments that lead to bigger progress and you do not forget lessons learned.
- Reward yourself for small accomplishments: Every positive accomplishment on the way to a change is worth celebrating!
What Can You Do If the Attempt at Change Fails?
What if the change is a mistake; the new business flounders, attempts to diet fail, or the new home comes with terrible neighbors. During the process of recovering from a failed change, you can:
- Take time to reflect before rushing into the next new thing.
- Review your journal for clues as to what went wrong and when.
- Seek small challenges to reaffirm your ability to surmount obstacles.
- Ask for help from a new source.
- Provide yourself with hope; add “yet” to the end of negative sentences for instant hope, as in “I cannot control my smoking habit yet.”
Change management is a skill we all must possess if we are to reduce our stress. Five foundational elements to successful change management are; knowing the signs of when to change, setting oneself up for positive change, uniquely prepare for change, inspirational support during change, and course-correcting when there are obstacles to change.
There is a process to change management that will work for you, where the end result will always produce success. Exploring different techniques and implementing them tailored to your style is essential.