How to effectively manage personal change?
Last week I wrote a blog article on how to effectively manage organizational change. In order for an organization to change, the people in the organization need to change as well. As humans we constantly go through change – we grow up, we get married, we have children, we move, we change jobs, we get sick, we experience natural disasters, close friends and family pass away – it’s just life! Most of us go through these changes without thinking about “managing them.” But there are ways in which you can help yourself through change. In this week’s blog post I wanted to share some steps you can take to more effectively manage personal change.
1. Visualize a great future
Create a compelling vision for your future life. No matter what change you are going through, picture yourself in the future with the life you dream of. Create a “vision board” with images that represent things you want in your life. Place the vision board in a place where you see it often, inside your bathroom cabinet or on your bedroom wall. The vision board should be a living representation of things that fulfill your life. In order for your vision to become a reality, you need desire, willingness, belief and commitment.
2. Understand your emotions
People who go through change go through a number of different emotions. Our reactions can be similar to those in traumatic situations such as during a divorce, the death of a loved one or a major natural disaster. The “five stages of grief” which were introduced by Physiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 describes the various stages that we might go through while under an enormous amount of negative stress:
- Denial – “I feel fine.” “This can’t be happening, not to me”. This is a human defense mechanism, where you are unable to take in facts and information about the situation. The denial might be conscious or unconscious.
- Anger – “Why is this happening to me? It’s not fair!” You might be angry with yourself, others or the world. It’s common to feel frustrated, anxious, irritated, embarrassed and ashamed.
- Bargaining – In this stage, you start looking for alternatives. If you are going through a divorce, you might want to suggest “being just friends”, if you are going through illness you might try to bargain for more time. It’s common that you want to share your story with others, and you struggle to find meaning to what has happened.
- Depression – What’s the point? Who cares? During a depressed state, you commonly distance yourself from others. You commonly feel overwhelmed and lack energy. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty.
- Acceptance – “It’s going to be alright, I will get over this”. In this stage, you come to terms with the change and accept it. You start to explore new options and make new plans.
3. Find balance in your life
In order to manage change better, it’s important that you have balance in your life. If you were to focus all your time and energy on your job and you lose it, the change has an enormous impact on your life. However, if you have a good balance between your work, your family, your community and yourself, changes become easier to tackle. Finding the right balance takes planning and discipline, you need to make a conscious decision to find balance and spend your time and energy accordingly.
4. Be true to yourself
Many people chase after things they believe they “ought to have”. This might be a big promotion to become the Executive Director or to make enough money to buy the loft apartment. You need to ask yourself, what it is you really want in your life. Be true to yourself and don’t get blinded by what everyone else is doing. Your heart, mind and soul need to be in synch, and when they are you will be ignited with energy that will help you through change.
5. Work on a positive mindset
The final, and probably most important step in order to successfully manage change is to have a positive mindset. You can’t prevent change from happening, but you are in charge of how you react to the change. It’s very common that people who resist change become “negaholic”. This means that they have a very pessimistic outlook of the future and that they believe they are powerless. In order to have a positive mindset, you need to think positive thoughts. As humans we are creatures of habit, it’s easy for us to get stuck in a routine – this includes our thinking patterns. Instead of thinking, “I can’t”, your first thought should be, “Of course I can!” A positive mindset will make you feel more confident, happier and healthier.
Your behavior is contagious
Growing up my mother’s positive mindset often annoyed me. If I was heartbroken over being dumped by a boyfriend, she would cheerfully say, “He wasn’t worthy of you anyway”. Or if she spilled yogurt in the fridge, she would say, “Perfect, I’ve been planning to clean the fridge – now I can’t delay it any longer”. Today I’m very happy and grateful for my mother’s positive and optimistic mindset. Behavior is contagious and today I’m very much like her. You can’t prevent things from changing in life, but a positive mindset can help you through it and it makes your entire life so much more enjoyable!
(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here)