3 Ways To Change, With Ease

It seems like everyone I speak to today is talking about change.  Consultants work with organizations to bring about change, managers ask their employees to change their ways, executives try to change their organizational culture, and a new breed of entrepreneurs attempt to change the world one startup at a time.

Just type the word “Change” into Google’s advanced news search and you will see lists of headlines where change is featured.  Today I noticed that PBS is wondering if the Volcker rule will change the culture of wall street, the Wall Street Journal reported that Steve Balmer thinks a new leader at Microsoft will accelerate change, and the Washington Redskins are considering a quarterback change this weekend.

Change is all around us.  It can be fun to watch, but that fun turns to fear and distress once it hits too close to home.

How can you deal with change that comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face? How can you handle the change gracefully and maintain the composure that great leaders possess in times of difficulty?

I’m going to tell you the single most important action you can take to effectively deal with change, but you should note that it won’t be easy.  Change is disruptive, confusing and unpredictable; but to change with ease you must do the following:

Shift your focus from what is happening outside of you to what is happening inside of you.

We all know people who possess this ability.  It might be an executive you work with, a family member, or a friend.   Individuals who effectively handle change are notable and possess positive qualities.  They are calm, composed, and gracious; while others run around with their hair on fire.  They have mastered the inner game and it shows.

Thankfully, mastering the inner game is possible for all of us.  Here are three things you can do to improve you inner game and change with ease.

  1. Observe the thoughts in your head - When surprised by a change you will likely analyze it.  Your attention will shift to your mind and thoughts will pulse through your head.  You might ask how this will affect you and your team, or what can you do to avoid the change.  All of these thoughts grab your attention and dominate your thoughts when you are caught in the moment.  Instead of reacting you should sit, listen and say nothing.  You do not have to react quickly to change.  Just soak it in and shift your attention to the thoughts in your head.  If you have the capacity to take notes jot down your thoughts and let them go.  Don’t hold onto a thought and obsess over it.  Just write it down - so that you have acknowledged it - and let it go.  This simple action will widen the gap between stimulus and response and position you for success at a later time.
  2. Label your feelings - Your mental and emotional systems are closely linked.  When thoughts pulse through your head, feelings surface.  Are you aware of the feelings you have?  Are you frustrated, angry, fed up, happy, excited, anxious, tired?  Try to label your feelings and focus your attention on them.  If you are really good at this you might be able to see the link between the thoughts you have and the feelings you feel.  By labeling your feelings you start to see that you are not your feelings and your feelings do not control you.  If you believe your feelings are controlling you then you are not in a position to take action.  You are stuck in an emotional state and your actions will be perceived as such.
  3. Focus on your body - If you are stuck in your head or controlled by your emotions you are not centered in your body.  We are all made of flesh and bone, but many focus elsewhere.  When your emotions kick in your facial expressions mirror that emotion - unconsciously.  When you are stuck in analysis mode others can tell that you are not listening.  The simplest way to gain control of your emotions and get out of your head is to bring your attention to the body.  Can you feel your feet touching the floor?  Can you feel the movement in your chest when you inhale?  Can you place your fingers together and feel your pulse?  Here is a tough one.  Can you feel or hear your heart beat?  By shifting your attention to the body you quiet the thoughts in your head and calm your emotions.  Practice these simple actions and you will be able to shift your attention with ease.

Shifting your focus from what is happening outside of you to what is happening inside of you creates a special connection with your better self.  Leaders who master this inner game possess great power and attract followers who are inspired by strong leadership.  No one wants to follow a leader who is constantly frustrated, angry, emotionally unstable, and over analytical.  The good news is that by taking these three steps you can learn to change with ease and inspire others to do the same.

Question:  What other techniques have you used to effectively handle change?