When Change Happens – What You Can Control

photo - when change happens what you can control


How does that word settle for you?

Is your adventurous spirit in anticipation of something the equivalent of Christmas morning? Or are you struck with the fear of being stretched to unacceptable levels and forced to abandon a plan that, in your mind, wasn’t even broken?

Life and business move FAST! And whether we like it or not, change can often feel like a raft navigating the rapids of a surly river.

Sometimes we can see what’s around the bend and have time to brace for the new information. But often, there’s no warning. It’s a surprise, possibly even a shock, but most certainly, you’re caught off guard and your confidence may be taken along with it.

Recently, I spoke to an organization that’s spent the last year trudging through the swampy waters of change and is feeling a little beat up. It’s zapped energy from both the organization and individual employees, and when we’re running on low energy reserves, frustration, stress or anger rears it’s ugly head.

So, what can help?

Well, understanding what to expect. Maybe we don’t expect the change. But we can get familiar with the process of change and control our journey through the steps.

Early in my sales career I learned about the Attitude & Emotion Cycle. Let’s face it, between canceled appointments, deals falling through and clients demanding more than is possible, a byproduct of sales is learning to pivot. And the faster you’re able to turn and adapt to the change, the less energy it consumes, and more progress is made.

Initially, I received classroom training on this Attitude & Emotion Cycle, but I didn’t really “get it” until I was going through some hard stuff. A mentor helped me to pause, look inward and identify where I was in the cycle. I was finally able to breathe, find some energy and realize a few things:

  • I understood that my feelings were normal, and it was necessary to express them - in healthy ways.

  • It gave me patience. I had to be willing to go through a process before I’d be back feeling like my happy working self.

  • This change happened and though I can’t erase it, I. Am. Not. A. Victim. I can take control over how I respond. And that feels empowering.

The Attitude & Emotion Cycle:

Phase 1 – HAPPY – This is where we all want to spend most of our time! Life and work are going great. You’re competent and confident in navigating what comes your way. There might be stress involved, but it’s normal healthy levels.

Phase 2 – SHOCK – Something happened!! You’re in a state of pause trying to take it in and your brain is trying to formulate a story to make sense of it all.

Phase 3 – PUSHBACK – Now that you’ve come out of shock, you’re saying things like, “I didn’t ask for this.” “What we were doing wasn’t broken.” “If only they could understand where I’m coming from.” Bottom line, you’re developing a clear stance opposing some or every last bit of the change.

Phase 4 – FRUSTRATION – Here come the emotions! You might be feeling mild displeasure, or your inner sailor is surfacing! Get it out in the healthiest way you know how.

Phase 5 – SETTLE – Though you’d like to avoid this change, you’re realizing it’s not possible. You might be depressed or reluctantly going through the motions. Fear of what’s new is still present, but you’re taking steps to adapt.

Phase 6 – RECOMMITTMENT – Internal resistance is lessening and you’re working towards finding your new “HAPPY”. It’s going to take time, as you haven’t mastered the new thing, quite like you knew the old. But you’re committed to working through the internal and external changes to get back to Phase 1.

Share this with a spouse, employee or friend, and when you’re in the thick of something, reach out for their help! You’ll want to:

  1. Identify where you are in the cycle.

  2. Brainstorm what needs to happen next to get to the next phase.

  3. Then focus everything on making that happen.

As long as you’re intentionally moving from one phase to another, whether it takes 10 minutes or 10 months, you’re making progress. And the hope you see flickering at the end of the tunnel, allow it to pull you through.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor E. Frankl

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