I attended a meeting of a group of amazing women I network with regularly and the topic of change came up. Some of us are in the business of change. We help our clients make changes that are necessary to improve their business results, clean up physical messes, and get organized, even clean up emotional messes so they can move forward in their lives. We all came to the same conclusion. It is difficult to be in the business of change. People hate change. People resist change. People don’t want change. Even those that know they need it and that it will help them improve things, avoid change. This makes it difficult for people to get and accept help. It makes it difficult for those of us in the business of change to help them.
Change is Hard
Change is hard. Change is scary. There is no getting around it. The only real certainty in life is that things will change. You can’t stop it. You can’t hide from it and it is happening at a faster and faster pace than ever before. But, you do have choices as to how you deal with change and the choice you make can make all the difference in how hard things are. How do you deal with the business of change?
1. You can go through changes kicking and screaming, resisting and expending a lot of energy trying to control things that you have no control over. That is exhausting and the change still comes.
2. You can try to avoid or ignore change and pretend it is not happening. You can stick your head in the sand only to wake up later and discover that your skills are outdated or technology is passing you by or you have missed great opportunities. Change still comes and now you have to catch up. Catch up takes almost as much energy as control and in some cases once you have been left behind it is nearly impossible to catch up.
3. You can anticipate change, embrace it, prepare for it, and yes, benefit from it by using it strategically as a springboard to growth, personal development and staying relevant in your field. With your eyes on the horizon, you may see an opportunity before others, you may be able to position yourself as a solution to help others navigate change, you may be able to make improvements in your business and your life that make things easier, more enjoyable or more fun. Change still comes and now you are ready for it, maybe can even benefit from it.
So I’d like you to think about change in a different way. If you embrace change, thinking of it as an adventure, you may have the chance to be a part of it and even shape some of what comes out of it. You certainly will have more control over how it impacts you, will be more prepared for it, will have less worry around it because you will be out in front of it planning and taking action, instead of just reacting after it is too late. If you resist it or run from it, the change will come anyway and you will be stuck with what you get when it is over. I don’t know about you, but I would like to have some say in how change impacts me.
Change Creates Fear
There can be a lot of fear around change. It threatens to take us from a place where we are comfortable knowing what to expect, how things will work, what the likely outcomes will be and how to behave to a place of unknown and ambiguity. Volumes have been written on how to manage change but it still comes and we still have trouble dealing with it.
Change is often viewed as negative. We are comfortable with what we know, what we live, even if it is less desirable than what we could have. Even if unbearable, there are those that will stick with what they know over taking a step into the unknown to try and better their situation.
A bright, energetic young lady I know was eager after college to join the Peace Corp. She wanted to make a difference in the world. It is not easy to get into the Peace Corp, but she finally worked her way through the process. She was accepted and assigned to a team in Morocco. The village she was placed in was remote and quite backward by our standards. No modern conveniences. No bathrooms. No toilet paper. Clean water and sanitation were issues. I wasn’t sure how she was going to manage but she was excited about the conditions. She was looking to make a big difference in people’s lives. Her assignment was to educate the women in the village on cleanliness and health standards to reduce illness and disease, especially in children. Who wouldn’t want better health for their children? She made friends with the village women. She learned a little of the language. The women came to trust her and attended her classes. They watched and learned as she demonstrated new techniques. But after every session, the women would return to their homes and revert back to the ways they knew, even if it meant having dirty drinking water and sick children. They were not open to change.
There are countless stories about people who stay in abusive relationships even when repeatedly beaten, sustaining painful physical and emotional injuries or being mistreated. And yet, they stay with their abuser knowing the abuse is likely to happen again. Why are we so fearful of change?
Change Takes Willingness to Risk
Change takes willingness to risk. It takes the willingness to let go of the familiar and head for the unknown with nothing but your beliefs. Change sets you right in the middle of uncertainty and those seas are difficult to navigate. Change is not necessarily negative. Planned, embraced change can be positive. Change and action is what creates results.
Think about this. Not changing does not eliminate risk. Let me say that again. Not changing does not eliminate risk. Doing nothing carries its own set of risks. There are no guarantees that things will stay as they are. Doing nothing risks being left behind or ending up in a situation that is worse than the current one.
One of the characteristics necessary for entrepreneurs is a willingness to risk. Not a “what the heck, cast your fate to the wind” type of risk, but an educated, planned, calculated risk. Risk for reward is what the entrepreneur is after. Entrepreneurs are action takers willing to let go of the familiar and strike out for something new, something better. It takes courage to start out, flexibility and perseverance to stay on the path, face uncertainty, failure, rejection, ridicule and still keep going until you reach the goal. It takes focus and commitment, hard work and a strong belief in what you are doing. It takes a “failure is not an option” mindset. Entrepreneurs plan and consciously take certain risks with money, ideas, new products and services and marketing strategies in the hopes of a greater reward, more revenue, more profit, more success, building a strong business and a better life.
Change is just another form of risk. Get in the business of change. Be willing to take a risk. Make it an educated, planned and a calculated risk. Reap the reward you can create from the business of change.