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Managing the Impact of Change - Part 1
By Peter de Jager   Printer Friendly Version

The secret to accepting Change is accepting that we must let go of the past before we can embrace the future. This is just another way of saying that in order to learn a new skill, we must stop using the old one. And yes... it's both difficult and scary... congratulations... you're human.

Today ""Change"" is the prevalent force. We've been through the Bronze Age, The Industrial Revolution, The Computer Era and we're getting ready to travel 'The Information Highway' We're really in The Times of Change... Get ready for a wild ride!

We try, in vain, to understand what it all means. We repeat phrases such as ""Things are changing faster than they've ever changed before"" and ""The only constant is Change"" and fail to understand what's really happening.

We struggle with the difficulty of Changing ourselves. We feel overcome by feelings of powerlessness brought about by changes beyond our control. And finally, we wrestle with the fear that we're the only ones with these feelings.

What is Change? Difficult question. 'Change' ranges from small events like learning to ride a bicycle... to large ones like, losing your job... to losing a loved one. These events have something in common, they place you into situations where you've never been before. This is difficult, uncomfortable and scary because you must once again learn to acquire a 'skill' and... there's a risk... you might fail.

You can sum this all up with the silly self evident truth... 'Before you know how to ride a bicycle, you don't know how to ride a bicycle.'

""Of course this is true!"" you exclaim! Then the question is... If this is obviously true, and self evident, then why do we expect ourselves to handle change without feeling uncomfortable? Why do get we depressed when it takes time to learn something new?

Change is all about moving from Competence (knowing how to do something) to Incompetence (learning something new), and when you're incompetent, you'll naturally feel incompetent. Our real problem with change is how we react to it. We expect change to be immediate and we get depressed when it takes time. In short, we want to know how to swim before we go into the water for the first time.

The key to coping with (and managing) change, is the knowledge that change hurts, that it takes time, that it brings about natural feelings of incompetence and confusion. Once you can accept these facts of change... then Change becomes a process, something you can manage and cope with... even when it hurts.

Change is about learning new things. If your organization has merged or downsized it's about finding out how the new organization works. If you were the one 'downsized' it's about learning how to sell yourself, all over again. If the change was in your personal life, then it's about recreating yourself. Change is learning. Change is growth.

The next key to becoming a 'master of change' is the realization that it requires a skill which cannot be taken away from you... your ability to learn. That's something you've already demonstrated you have in abundance. To prove this to yourself, take an inventory of all the skills you have acquired during your lifetime.

Don't forget the really difficult things, like learning to walk, to swim, to talk, to make friends, to read, to make love... all those things which make you more than 'Just a number.' These are all much more difficult than any 'technical' skills you might have acquired.

Your list of skills is your visible evidence of your natural ability to learn. Anything new facing you, will pale in comparison to what you've already accomplished. This is where your strength lies, not in your long list of skills, but in your natural ability to learn which made the list possible.

None of this will make the confusion of Change go away. Change hurts. When you have to give up the security of what you know and move into the unknown, then you have the right to be a bit nervous. But! feeling bad about feeling nervous is non-productive. It saps your strength and makes change difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

The strange thing is that the past sometimes lies between the present and the future, you have to put it behind you, in order to move forward. Once you've done that... then your progress towards the future becomes easier.

Reprinted with permission of the Author, (C) 2000, Peter de Jager pdejager@year2000.com

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