Making a Change?

I was coaching a great client of mine yesterday.  He has a master plan for his life which includes taking early retirement next year. Suddenly his work situation has changed and he is facing a year of potential misery. This has left him with a dilemma.  Does he stick with what he knows, even though it’s painful? (His comfort zone) Or does he make changes which are scary and perhaps risky? (His stretch zone)

Choosing to make changes can be scary for all kinds of reasons. My client may be afraid to apply for a new job in case he doesn’t get it. But he hasn’t got it now so what is there to be scared of? Perhaps it’s about losing credibility or feeling embarrassed because not landing another job might reflect badly on his abilities. It’s really easy to confuse failing to achieve something with being seen as a failure as a person. It might be that he would feel disloyal to his current team if he makes the changes or that they will judge him as disloyal for wanting to leave. Or it could be that he is so emotionally and psychologically drained by the situation that he hasn’t the energy to get himself unstuck.

He will only be able to make the change when he believes the positives of changing are greater than the positives of staying the same.  So taking the time to look at what is driving the change and what is blocking the change is a good first step. When the two seem to balance each other out we are left feeling ambivalent and therefore stuck. However, most people overestimate the risks of change and underestimate the risks of staying in their comfort zone. So, the next step is to challenge our assumptions around our list of drivers and blockers. This might be the time to enlist the help of a friend or trusted advisor to help with challenging those assumptions.

To sum up,

When there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be and you can acknowledge the discomfort that this creates.

When you can list the emotional and rational drivers and blockers of the change and challenge your assumptions

When you reach the point where you see that the positives of making the change outweigh the positives of staying with the current situation

Then you are ready and willing to take the action that will move you forward, help you grow your comfort zone and build your ability to deal with future changes positively.

  • How do you make the decision to make difficult changes?
  • What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway?”

13 Responses to Making a Change?

  • Excellent advice. I’m at yet another crossroads in my professional life, confronted with the choice of staying someplace that may or may not keep me around long-term, or increasing my proactive work in finding a more life-giving place to work. I’m fortunate that I still can work where I am while pursuing opportunities, but I know this will not last for long. I have gone through the WHENS you list and will make the leap when the door opens (crossed metaphors…oh well….). It is a bit scary, but that is also excitement I feel…excited to see where I land! Realize that the fear can be turned into excitement and create a burst of creativity.

  • Choices in life are growth not to decide inpulsive but to re think your choice and then you take it from there.

  • To resist change, ie, growth, is more stressful than changing.

  • Making a change… How these words can impact your life in so many ways. First let me say change can be a challenge at times but in general is good. Change will lift us up or take us down, depending on how we approach change. If we take time from our busy schedules and reflect on the changes in our lives over the past years, we will see how we’ve grown, which I’d like to be believe is for the better. Secondly, in 2009 after 40+ years of successful employment I was informed that my position was being eliminated and I was given a two week notice. The interesting thing about this notification was all indications all was well, my sales were at an all time high, I just finished negotiating a contact with a key customer and was headed to the airport for my next meeting and as we (my VP of Sales) were headed to the ticket counter there was a pause in our conversation which went something like this. I need to inform you of a few changes in the organization before you get your ticket. At that moment is when I heard the words “your position was eliminated”, keep in mind it has nothing to do with performance its all about the dollars. In short I was given a severance package and shown the door. Having said all of this, I thought what am I going to do now! I reflected on my past 40+ years and made a list of my strengths and my weaknesses. I knew that decision (CHANGE)needed to happen in order for me to reinvent myself if I wanted to survive. It’s now 2.5 years later nd I must say that “Making a Change” has been the best thing ever, I am in a career field that I find most challenging but extremely rewarding. My parting comment is, embrace change it may take you on a journey that you never dreamed of; change is good.

    • Thanks so much for contributing your experience Harold. You’ve given us a really positive and clear account of how you turned around a potentially damaging event and created an opportunity for further growth and development.

  • Dear Julie, it’s a complicated one. Both, the general question (though in general you can say fabolous things perhaps never realized) and the actual case.

    The actual case: with such a fixed master plan for retiring next year (especially if it’s known to the work environment) I would simply quit one year earlier. Somehow I feel it dishonest or at least not fair that somebody who will planfully not live the new changed life of the company would lead the change. It’s so simple for me. But to have also an upbeat alternative, I could imagine that this new situation will change the master plan. I could be a very brave and respectful decision of the executive if he say, OK, it’s a new situation, I will not surrender, I will go for it, I will lead the change but, then, I would like to be here some more (e.g. additional 3) years to see the fruits of the change and to lead the fine-tunings or the further necessary changes.

    The general conclusion. Well, I think when in such a situation, the least interesting aspect was the fear or how to make the decision from my part. If the need for change is a must and the majority of the decisional body is deciding to make it, there is no place to hesitate, all the energy is needed to the strategy formation, the tactical scheduling and the working out the overall how to-s.

    • Hi Miklos. Thanks for your contribution. Thought provoking as ever. I agree with your point that when the change is in strategy or business direction then one must consider committing and becoming a leader of the change. In this particular case it was more personal than that which is why I on how we as individuals face up to difficult changes and personal choice.

  • How difficult it will be when one has to make changes to his/her life? What is or are the changes? We have faced problems and gone through almost everything in our lives, from bad to worst and from good to better. Yet not all were ended up in our ways or in our satisfaction. We gain and loss everyday in our lives…So why must so scare to make some changes for your own future?

    I think, I agree with you Julie…

    • Thanks Najid. Yes it is really useful to remember all the changes we have all been through in our lives and how we managed them successfully. Many people think they are not good at dealing with change when in reality we are change experts!

  • Hi Julie
    In answer to; “How do you make the decision to make difficult changes?”
    I imagine the worst that I know would definitely happen if I made the change. Then I imagine the absolutely best thing that could happen and then I imagine what if I didn’t change and just continued doing what I’ve always done. If that doesn’t help I watch the film ‘Groundhog Day’ staring Bill Murray (again).
    In answer to; What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway?”
    I just imagine being stuck in day one of my own version of Groundhog Day.
    If you are wondering what I’m going on about, you need to watch the film.

  • Deciding to take the initial leap is scary. What pushes me to take it is knowing how great it will feel to land someplace new and farther along in my development. Empowerment is a powerful motivator. My daily goal is to find one way to get out of my comfort zone. It might be as simple as calling someone, smiling at a stranger, chatting it up with someone who looks out of place, etc. I feel alive each time I do.

    • Nicely put Suzie. And isn’t it great to see that when you consistently get out of your comfort zone, the comfort zone gets bigger and bigger. You only need to compare the first time you got behind the wheel of your car to now practically driving on autopilot to prove that. Thanks for your contribution

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