The Barefoot Corporate Warrior: Winds Of Change
When the Winds of Change are A-Blowin’, “Resistance is Futile”(The Borg)
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Ocelli.
From both within and without, the process of growth can appear to be a totally disarming and negative one. However, the appearance can mask a fundamental transformation which leads to new and exciting levels of human existence and higher-achieving organisations.
Yoga teachers over the years have advised me to take poses to the “edge”, where ease gives way to tension and pain hovers just over the event horizon where balance is achieved.
The edge should bring our body and mind to a new understanding where growth and expansion are possible. Resisting and struggling at this flex point of change can be painful. Easing into it is what is actually required in order to achieve benefit.
I have recently been pondering our response to change and whether we can approach changes, both internal and external, with an open heart and mind.
Can we, in fact, adopt a permanent readiness posture to change and through proactivity turn change into a growth opportunity of some kind almost all the time?
Also, is pain a precursor to change and growth from which we cannot escape? Does the experience of pain ready us for new and better approaches to how to live our lives? Is pain actually necessary for growth to occur?
Can we influence or manage the process of change, to make growth through adversity a real possibility?
Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the “Change Curve” to describe the grieving process felt by terminally ill patients in the 1960s. Since then the curve has been used to predict the process initiated by any major change or upheaval. It applies to both people and organisations and is often used in developing high-performance teams.
The stages are: shock and denial; anger and depression; and acceptance and integration.
It would be great if we could skip the first two stages and move straight to the exciting and positive one of acceptance and integration where possibilities and opportunities for growth emerge and are actioned into a “new normal”.
However, being human it seems that in the absence of continual work on preparing for change, we are condemned to an endless cycle of all three stages, including the pain of the first two.
While we instinctively understand that change is a life-long norm, we seem to have an inbuilt resistance to this process.
Some changes are unforeseen, fast or slow-moving and/or shocking in nature. Some changes are thrust upon us by a crisis or rapid change in our external life situation. Others come about through a catastrophic health issue or a mental or emotional “break” caused through shock.
Other internally-emanating changes can be seeping or creeping in nature, taking many years to manifest. When these slow-moving changes ripen they can be as equally devastating as the sudden shock forms.
Change can leave us disoriented, confused, angry, lacking in confidence and momentarily paralysed.
Like businesses, we all need to remain alert to changes in our environment and circumstances which may require us to respond – anticipating what the competition is up to for example.
A certain level of preparedness for change seems to make sense.
Adopting a permanent posture of growth may be the way to maximise the impetus which change brings to life. This means harnessing our innate restlessness towards a life-long ambition of being open to, and even welcoming change.
Significant changes in direction, either at a personal or career level, are often flagged by a period when “the winds of change are a-blowin” internally. We can feel the change or changes coming.
The key to a smooth(er) transition seems to be to firstly: have the awareness that change is coming; and then to subtly guide this process to a phase of growth, making the denial and anger phases as brief and shallow as possible.
This is obviously not easy if we are clinging to a situation which clearly needs to be consigned to the past tense.
Star Trek’s alien Borg seek to subdue their enemies with the phrase: “Resistance is futile”. As some of you may be aware The Borg operate as a collective, a bit like ants or bees (on a much larger scale), and have a nasty predilection for absorbing everyone and everything they come into contact with into this collective physically and mentally i.e. you become a Borg.
Like Captain Jean-Luc Picard the instinct to resist is strong. However with change is this always the best way? Why do we resist? Why do we not learn to accept and adapt?
Demographers and political pundits often say people do not like change. They fear loss through change. It’s natural.
Maybe so but we are living through the most rapid period of change in the evolution of the human species. You would think we would be getting better at it.
Scientists have in recent years found that animals adapt to changing environmental conditions much faster than previously thought. If the finches of the Galapagos Islands can do it why can’t we?
Growth from change is not certain. Many elements, both obvious and obscured, influence whether a person will continue to grow throughout a life or whether development is arrested or stunted by dint of circumstance or mental and emotional habits.
Growth through change seems to be the healthy option. An ongoing attention to preparation is required. Maintaining a detached third-person awareness that growth is possible, even when change seems to be sweeping you before it, tossing you around like a tumbleweed, seems to be the key.
How can you ready yourself for change? Can you make change a growth engine?