Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Top Tips for Making Change Work for You

If you don't create change, change will create you

When people ask me what I do as a job, I often describe myself as being ‘a catalyst for change’ or a ‘change facilitator’.  Change is constant and yet as human beings, we find adapting to it really difficult.  We are happy to upgrade to the latest iphone or Wii every five minutes though when it comes to dealing with unexpected situations such as redundancy or a relationship breakdown, we often struggle to cope.  There is the feeling of being out of control or losing the agency in our lives that we once had.

Susan, a client of mine came to see me following several changes in her life; she had just finalised her divorce, had moved up to the Midlands to pursue a new job though felt overwhelmed with the thought of creating a new life on her own. Immobilised with anxiety and panic attacks all the time, she literally had to force herself to leave the house in the morning. 

Change of choice
We may try and buffer ourselves from change by getting health insurance or savings, though ultimately, some situations remain out of our control.  As I began writing about ways of handling change, I considered how responses to change can reflect the experience of losing a loved one. Last week, Bombardier made 1400 redundant, following Egg's redundancies in Derby a few days before. I can only imagine the differing reactions of the staff- in particular, the sense of shock, fear, loss, and anger, as well as uncertainty about finding a way forward.  

Working with Susan, I could see she was still in shock over her divorce and filled with regrets about things she had done.  She came to understand that the anxiety she felt was a symptom of her feeling out of control of the situation, and her mind’s way of keeping her safe from experiencing more hurt and upset.  I explained that this was simply an adaptive response to what was happening and that we needed to work on creating more options for her to enable her to create change.

Let go of shoulds

The other word I hear a lot of working with clients is ‘should’- it ‘should be this way’, ‘I should be doing this’ and my response to this is ‘who says?’.  We all want life and the world to be a certain way and so often we fight reality and ‘what is’ by getting angry or depressed as we can’t control it.  In Susan’s case, she felt she ‘should be over the divorce by now’ and felt frustrated with herself for not feeling differently.  Until she did learn to accept herself for her decisions and that the situation had now changed, she remained stuck in anxiety and overwhelm.

Acceptance is a strategy

What I described above about ‘fighting reality’ is what I would describe as a reaction to circumstances- rather than taking a step back and reflecting on what we can change in the situation, we get upset and close down on any options.  Responding to a situation enables us to get some perspective on what is going on when we are probably too immersed in the thick of it at the time.  When we detach from it for a while and see it through different eyes, we start seeing solutions rather than problems. We also experience a greater sense of empowerment and acceptance of what is happening as we begin to refocus on the next steps forward. 

Top Tips for making change work for you:

1.    Get leverage!  Ask yourself, ‘what’s the worst possible outcome in this situation’?  and ‘Can I cope with that?’  Often the worst rarely happens though if we face it, we are more likely to be able to deal with it, if and when it does occur. Doing a SWOT analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the situation you are in is also useful to help you step back and reflect on what you might be missing. By understanding as much as you can about the new situation, you have a better chance of finding a place to fit in or adapt to it.

2.    Get anchored- Focus on which areas in your life are constant and stable right now. Feeling that sense of security in some aspects of your life can be a good anchor point to build on.  If you are in the place where change has left you feeling completely up ended in your life, go back to a time when you did feel that sense of safety, notice what kind of mindset you had then and step into that moment and experience all the good feelings you had then. Keep going back to that time and anchor it by putting your thumb and forefinger together on your right hand. Use this every day to reinforce the good feelings and change your state.

3.    Step into Possibility thinking- When we are in the midst of change and feel a loss of control, we can close doors on new possibilities.  I call this Limited thinking (as in it keeps you stuck where you are), whereas Possibility thinking is about opening doors; asking yourself the right questions, such as: ‘what new opportunities can this situation bring me?’ or ‘I wonder who I might meet today to help me move forward?’ can enable you to refocus on the positives.

4.    Implement- Rather than resisting change, go with it. If you are being forced to go in a certain direction then learn to adapt- make a plan of action for the short and medium term as to how you can implement your own changes in the situation and gain more autonomy in your life. Remember to also include supporters like friends and colleagues who can help encourage you with implementing your plans, and go back to the SWOT analysis for inspiration.

5.    Accept- One of my favourite sayings is: ‘what we resist persists, what we accept can heal’.  As I already said, with change, there can be the experience of loss and a grief process of which acceptance is the final stage.  It is also the most difficult stage though when you do get there, it is when you are really able to utilise the change in your life for the better to expand your own self growth, as Susan did.

It also begs the question- do some people cope better with change than others and what makes them more resilient? I will be talking about this in my next blog instalment.

Alexandra Bacon is a certified Advanced EFT Practitioner, Counsellor, Bach Flower Remedy Practitioner, Wellbeing consultant and Trainer. To book your personalised treatment session please call Alexandra on 01629 825968/ 07950 568635.