Change is scary. And that’s perfectly fine. As humans, like most other animals, we are creatures of habit; we’ve been hard-wired to approach anything new with caution. Imagine our cave-dwelling ancestors coming across a cave they hadn’t encountered before. It makes sense that they would enter this unknown territory slowly, inspecting and re-inspecting every square inch for hidden danger rather than blindly barreling into the darkness. Their fear of anything new is what kept them alert and alive; their resistance to change was a survival tactic. However, in today’s world, our natural reaction to view change as an obstacle rather than opportunity has become a disadvantage.
I can almost feel your eyes roll from that last sentence. You may have muttered something like “real original” as you read it. And you know what? That sarcastic dismissal is completely accurate. We’re not the first ones to tout the need to change your outlook, and we won’t be the last. But, here’s your first chance to practice focusing on opportunity instead of obstacle. Why do you think you hear this idea so much? And why do you think we chose it as our first topic in this series? It’s because this idea has been tested and re-tested and every person who can successfully maneuver change will tell you that perception is everything. If the idea of change creates anxiety and clammy palms for you, take comfort in the fact that not everything about change is changing. There is a constant in change and even a way to control it: that is to control whether it controls you.
We know this is easier said than done, as most things are. If we’ve been hardwired from the beginning to avoid the unknown for fear of danger, certainly reading a single blog post isn’t going to make it happen. So, you may ask, how is it done? This short exercise will only take a couple of minutes and will start you on the right path. Think back to your last challenge, could be anything from a frustrating encounter to an Armageddon-like event. How did you react? Did you see opportunity or crisis? Then write down (on paper, on your computer, on anything. Record yourself talking if that works best) any and every possible opportunity you can think of that could have come from that situation. Did you already approach it with the optimism of opportunity? Great! Make note of what opportunities you focused on then add anything else you can think of now that you’ve had time to step back. Were there surprise opportunities you hadn’t foreseen at the time but are evident now? The WorkLife Method utilizing the Birkman assessment helps to identify reactive behavior in stressful situations. Having the awareness of knowing how you react in these situations is the first step in recognizing your emotions and may even help you to repurpose them for a successful turnaround. Being able to access the Birkman information works as a shortcut to recognizing and changing your response.
You now have an extremely powerful tool in helping you change your perception from crisis to opportunity. The next time you feel that creeping gloom of an upcoming obstacle possibly leading towards a crisis, stop. Take a breath. Then note any opportunity that has the potential to grow from this unknown (hint: there’s always opportunity; it’s the constant of change). Soon enough, your way of viewing challenges will change which, in turn, will change your approach and your response. Some of you might notice your view changes quickly, others may take a little longer, and that’s fine. The only timeline for change is that it is happening right now whether you like it or not. The more you go through this exercise, the thought process behind recognizing opportunity will become second nature and you will have mastered the first opportunity change provides. We challenge you to take control of the change around you by controlling your perception.
How have you managed your perception of opportunity versus crisis? How has your outlook affected your reaction to change? We’d love to hear any techniques you may have developed on your own so leave us a comment!