Here is a line from George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Back to Methuselah” ‘There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’ This was used by Robert Kennedy during his brief Presidential campaign and shortly afterwards in a eulogy for him delivered by his brother Ted. That was fifty years ago.
My reflections on changing the way things are come from a journey of 81 years, including a 50-year career. I worked in different places with people who were learning, growing and, over time, or sometimes suddenly, changing. I changed. My family changed. My work changed. I lived in different places. I had a hand in all of it one way or another. My tag line for the past several years has been “Change is inevitable. Plan carefully.”
There are two kinds of change, planned and unplanned. While the former is more desirable, it’s not always possible. When planned change can be anticipated there are specific steps to insure you have the opportunity to make the most effective and successful change possible.
When change is precipitated by external factors and not anticipated, the response to that kind of change may need additional support and guidance in order to embrace change in the best possible way. In addition to crisis management, there are other responses available.
Your change, either the one you are planning or the one that may already have happened without your planning, may seem similar to others. However, each person is unique because as individuals, we have different histories, varying personalities, and specific cultures. Therefore, your approach to change needs to be unique to you and to your particular situation.
If you are seriously planning to create a change, consider these seven dimensions to help move you forward to the next stage. If you are just thinking about the possibilities, keep thinking. This is more about doing it.
- The Nature of Change and Learning from Nature. Change is a constant. Consider what you can observe in the natural world, the seasons of change in many places, the growth of plants, and how we respond to all of that. Are we merely observers or do we find ways to be a participant and learn from the experience? Not everyone is an inveterate gardener or grew up on a farm or spent a lot of time outdoors as either a child or an adult. That said, those that have a connection with nature say that it is nourishing – physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you are not one of those people, consider developing a strong connection to Mother Nature.
- Why Me and Why Now? You are the epitome of change and you need not be a passive bystander, merely reacting to change as it occurs. Consider all, or at least many, of the changes that you have experienced thus far. These include developmental changes as you got older from learning to walk and talk through adolescence and into adulthood. Relationships change over time. Children grow up, leave home, create their own families. From your first job to your last, unless you did the same thing for 30+ years, your work changed and you may well have changed where you worked and for whom you worked. You may have even helped to effect change along the way.
- If Nothing Changes Nothing Changes. It sounds redundant. However, consider that statement again and sit with it for a moment. If what you are experiencing is more of the same, what we sometimes call the S.O.S. of life (Same Old Stuff) it can become boring or useless, or even worse, counter-productive. If you are waiting for some outside change angel to appear and make things different, it’s highly unlikely. You could get surprised by a change you did not see coming. Or you may be the one who has to initiate the change or nothing will change. You are not likely get to a better or different place unless there’s a plan in place to take you there.
- Removing or Working Through Obstacles to Change. If you ever felt like you needed a change or that you needed to change yourself and nothing happened, why not? Too hard? Not worth the time and effort required? Don’t rock the boat or risk making others unhappy? Too much risk? What do you think is holding you back? Describe or define the obstacles, name them and consider designing a detailed plan to create change. You may have to work through the obstacles rather than finding a way around them. As Mae West is credited with saying “I never said it would be easy. I said it would be worthwhile.”
- Creating Choices and “Following Your Bliss.” Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth said it best here: “Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living,. When you can see that you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be,. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” Perhaps the key phrase here is “don’t be afraid because fear may be that which is keeping you from making the change you believe you need.
- Adjustments, Adaptations and Alterations. Being flexible and nimble while making a change, being able to alter a planned course in order to reach a goal is highly desirable. Think of taking a trip. You looked at the map. You saw where you wanted to go. You plotted a course. You made all the necessary arrangements. And then something changed. Maybe it was the weather. It could have been another person. Your situation changed. It could have been any number of things that interrupted your well-designed plan. Do you have an alternate in mind or can you create one while on the move? We need to have a tool kit of resources available in order to address any issue that might occur. Anticipate the possibilities ahead of time. It’s a different kind of travel insurance.
- Looking Ahead, Beyond the Horizon or Around the Curve So now you’re cruising along enjoying the first phase of a new position whether that position is personal or professional. You have arrived at a new and welcome place in your life. It required effort on your part, maybe even some sacrifice. You are feeling rewarded for your effort and now you realize the value of having created an important change. Look ahead to see if you can anticipate what kinds of change you might like or need in the future instead of waiting and start planning now. “Time and tide wait for no one.” It was Max Planck, a physicist, who said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you’re looking at change.” Making a change takes more than looking and thinking although this could be a good start to get you to where you say you want to be.