When people are in the thick of change they perceive as negative, they might have difficulty thinking clearly when deciding how to respond. Under pressure, we tend to put limitations around ourselves and may have a more difficult time creating positive change in our work, life, and community.
As with some things, emotions get triggered by changing routines, or over the fear of losing one’s sense of security. They might also be tempted to dwell on “worst-case scenarios” that might arise as a result of the change.
Change can be hard, but learning the three methods below can have a significant impact on how change can be positively handled and even turned around to one’s advantage, both now and when change comes around again — which it always does.
1) Use perspective to your advantage
We often think of perspective as something we view in hindsight. But perspective can also be used during change to focus on the big picture, instead of worrying about the minute details that might result.
People, especially in the West, sometimes put things into perspective by using the term “first world problems.” For example, if you spill coffee on yourself before that big presentation, it’ll appear to be a huge issue.
Having someone say “first world problems” really won’t help you at that moment — it might actually make things worse! In hindsight, however, you may find yourself laughing about it, or turning that experience into a funny story.
When change happens, managing perspective at the time without minimizing the current situation can help. This can be done by recalling past negative situations, and using what was learned at the time to handle what’s happening in the present. The past changes don’t even need to be similar.
Start by asking these three questions:
- In which past situation did I handle change well?
- Which talents, strengths, skills and abilities did I use in that situation?
- How can I apply those talents and strengths to the current situation in which I’m stuck?
Remembering how change was handled in the past can provide perspective — and the necessary tools — to create positive change today. Also, keep in mind that one day, the current situation might provide guidance for a future change as well.
2) Explore options… without committing
When struck with disruptive change, people sometimes get stuck in the mindset that they must make an immediate decision in response. As humans, “fight or flee” kicks in automatically when faced what could be perceived as a threat.
The reality is that neither fighting nor fleeing is necessary. Exploring one’s options without making a commitment is a better strategy.
For example, a change in your neighbourhood might affect you so negatively that you start to consider selling your home. Instead of hammering the “For Sale” sign into your front lawn, explore what’s involved first: Look at house listings; have coffee with a realtor; speak with your bank about a mortgage — just take a few steps before deciding whether the path you’re considering is the right one.
The same applies to changes at work that might leave some employees thinking about finding a new job or changing careers. Some people may start talking themselves out of looking for a new job with a bunch of excuses. Yet, they could start networking, interviewing, and exploring new opportunities.
Exploring a job opportunity doesn’t mean you have to take it if it’s offered to you!
Investigating what’s out there will reduce the time spent in a negative mindset, and create avenues to new situations, opportunities, and possible solutions.
3) Remember the positive action equation
We’re always being told to “think positive”, and avoid any sort of negative thinking. Although positive thinking is important to getting through everyday challenges, it’s also context specific.
This means that when dealing with negative situations, positive thinking alone can actually be detrimental, and contribute to creating an air of false positivity. The problem is that doubts, questions, and concerns will still linger under the surface.
This is also true when someone tries to put a positive spin on a bad situation. We’ve all heard about the importance of “embracing failures and learning from them.” The same holds true with negative situations — embracing negativity to address the issues will help identify a way to turn things around.
A more effective way to handle negative situations is to take a positive approach which, unlike positive thinking alone, means actually stepping up and taking action. This is what I call the positive action equation:
Wisdom + Action = Change
Wisdom in negative situations is nice to have. We can acquire wisdom through books, seminars, blogs, and our own experiences, but on its own wisdom is meaningless. Wisdom needs to be combined with positive action to affect positive change.
In some cases, inaction is more important that action. It might be prudent to take some time to think through a situation if the approach is still unclear. Taking small, manageable steps to see how things go at first will signal if the right approach was made as you progress along the path.
Remember, managing and creating change in your world doesn’t have to happen overnight. It takes time, determination, and a good deal of self-examination to get through. Following one or more of these three methods will help you manage changes today and give you the tools, perspective, and wisdom to handle changes tomorrow.
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