It has been 1 year since I said farewell to my old, corporate life. A life that I have lived in various companies, positions and locations for over 25 years. A life full of positive and less positive experiences and with a wide variety of change. A life that had equipped me well to handle any new challenge, I thought. On the contrary, I discovered while setting up my own independent coaching practice.
With the start of a new year and new decennium, I believe that this is a good moment to share what I learned about change and the key myths around it in a year that was for me full of change.
I Change is always good
In general, I tend to agree. Change is good. Staying too long in your comfort zone limits your personal growth. Over time this may end in stagnation. However, last year I experienced that change is also scary as hell, frustrating, confrontational and definitely not always fun nor good. After a first month of excitement about my self-gained freedom and flexibility, trying new things and meeting a wide variety of new people, whom I would never het met otherwise, serious self-doubt entered the stage. Am I doing the right things, is there anyone out there waiting for yet another coach, do I charge enough, will I earn enough, ….?
This self-doubt got so strong that one moment I even considered to go back to a regular job in the corporate world. Luckily, I got a very simple but important piece of advice in that period:
“As long as you stand-up one more time than you fall, you’ll always survive.”
II Change is a constant
Like “Change is the new normal”, the above statement is widely advocated in the organizational context. However, history and past experience also tell you a lot. It is, in my view, important to stand still and reflect regularly on what went/worked well. Things that you may want to keep and cherish going forward.
On the other hand, if you want to change, it is important to know why you want to change and what you really want or need to change. I realize that radical change is sometimes required, but more often small steps building upon a good foundation from the past is already enough to start the change you want. Using small steps helps you to reduce one of the key elements of resistance to change:
“The fear of letting go of what you have/know.”
III Change outcome is predictable
Nowadays, a lot of consultants and coaches suggest that change follows a linear path or can be achieved by following a predictable structure. Therefore, they can offer rather standard formats for change. Googling the words ‘method of change’, for instance, results in about 700 million (!) hits. A good example of such a format is the way organizations are advised to adopt Agile in a standardized, almost one-size-fits-all way, losing a lot of implied and often highly needed flexibility.
Having a framework to work on change is important. Staying flexible and alert on the signals that pop up are as important or maybe even more so. Every change journey follows its own, often unpredictable path.
“Curiosity is an essential element for change”
IV Change is immediately visible
When you go through change it is like the first year raising your child. As you are in the center of the change you don’t always see the progress that you have made. As with the baby, you need others to tell you how much you have grown already. This helps you to continue, especially when you “fall and lay flat on your face” not knowing how to “get up”. It is therefore important to regularly ask for feedback from people you value. Listening to their inputs will help you endure the tough elements of change, but also to shape change in the way that is most helpful to you.
“What may look like baby steps to you are often seen as real changes by others”
V Change you do on your own
Often people want to change something but do not know how or when. They use specific moments, like new year resolutions or a holiday break, to stop doing things or to start new things. They may not even tell others to avoid shame if they don’t succeed.
As change doesn’t come easy it is highly important to create your own support system before you start your journey. Such a system can consist of friends, family members, colleagues, professional trainers, coaches or even therapists. Although you are at the end responsible for your own change, a good support system helps you to get up when you fell, helps you to find direction when you’re lost, laughs with you when you “fail” and celebrates with you when you make a daring step. Therefore,
“Arrange a strong and divers support system, around you.”
As mentioned in the intro, last year change didn’t come easy to me and it required a lot of hard work (see picture). Although I have made some substantial steps, I realize that I haven’t reached my goal by far yet (will I ever?). This year again, I will face new challenges, have to overcome new and existing ☹ fears, feel shame when failing my own and others’ expectations, have my moments of loneliness and be insecure. However, from experience I know that these feelings will never outweigh the value of those beautiful and powerful gifts that also come with change, including:
- new insights in yourself and others;
- getting to know new and special people;
- exciting discoveries;
- experiencing the value of giving;
- witnessing the change in others;
- overcoming obstacles, including your own shortcomings, fears etc.;
- the value of growing.
This year, I’m very much looking forward to the road ahead that I will travel together with all the precious people who make up my support system. I can lean on them and trust that I will always stand up one more time than I will fall.
Do you feel that you want to change but need some support to figure out how or when? Just contact me for a ‘curiosity’ call (see here for details). Maybe I will become part of your support system.