Change causes us to break out in a sweat. We react to change with procrastination, with fear, with stubbornness. It doesn’t matter how we react, change is driven by time, and change happens unexpectedly. Fast. Unnervingly fast. Hating change is like hating the wind–it doesn’t care that you hate it; it still blows.
What makes change so awful? Most of my clients answer, “it’s the unknown next-step portion of change I hate,” but I don’t think so. When I ask a coaching client to give me an example, they tell me about feeling excruciatingly emotionally unprepared. Awkward. Not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. No time to prepare the perfect reply. No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied and not ready to run.
Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we find ourselves in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard, without time to plan, we make bad decisions.
My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.
When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?
The second part of change we hate is the fast decision making. We make decisions that are based in fear, and then see days and months of self-blame stretch in front of us. When loss is a choice, we make decisions that buffer the loss, and watch anger flood in, because we settled for less than we wanted because we had to decide quickly.
Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.
—Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people survive change and thrive in a changing time. Write her at QuinnCreative @yahoo. com to find out how she can help. [Close up the spaces to make the email address work.]