Forming, Storming...
Forming, Storming… (Photo credit: Paul Henman)

There is a myth that change is good for us. We all suffer from it on occasion. Not changing your route to work to stay interested, or taking a different class. Total reversal type change. Painful change.

The sort of change that wakes you up in the middle of the night. A palpable force pushing you from your comfort zone and forcing you to confront something deeply unpalatable. Confront something about yourself or something about your life or work that you’ve previously worked hard to subsume within yourself.

Some people tell me that they live for change! That change is a force for good in their lives and they relish the next twist and turn that fate deals them with an open mind and an excitement about where they will find themselves. I’m not sure I believe them.

I have watched people face change, and sometimes its not a pleasant experience. I’ve watched them face the inevitability of forces outside their control manipulating them and coercing them, or even downright smashing them into a new shape, a new way of working, or thinking or living. Its painful, not positive.

I have watched the emotions associated with redefining peoples lives and expectations play out on their open faces in front of me. Its a fundamentally personal experience when it happens and is uncomfortable to say the least. Its worse for them.

I don’t see how being ripped from the accidental insouciance of ones day to day life and being forced to face ones future with no time to think much less reflect, is anything other than agonising. I have seen tears and fears writ large across the faces of the toughest negotiators and softest of souls alike.

I’ve also seen hope. I’ve seen it time and time again. I have seen the triumph of a persons spirit over the adversity they face and it has lifted me with them. I have seen people face their fate with heads held high as their principles and their dignity shields them.

I have seen desperation turn to inspiration in a flash as people see a future that was invisible before this most impactful of catalysts landed at their door. Literally triumph out of adversity.

In business Tuckman’s stages of group development tells us that a new team or group might ‘Form’ from the ashes of something, or be forced together from some other deformation of some sort. Consequently this group will ‘Storm’ as they test and battle and fight as a new way of working and doing things appears. This ensures the new way is optimum before we see the group behaviours become the ‘Norm’ or standard. From this point we may see them ‘Perform’, increase output and improve out of all recognition.

English: A sequoia sempervirens (California re...
English: A sequoia sempervirens (California redwood, coast redwood) fairy ring in California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In America, it took conservationists years to work out why the protected Sequoia trees were dying out. They weren’t being farmed anymore and were surrounded by firebreaks to head off the annual forest conflagrations that had devastated so many of these majestic woodland grandees over time. In fact the giant redwoods as they are better known, are absolutely dependant on the cleansing power of fire to prepare their seed beds and churn up the forest nutrients.

And time and time again we hear of businesses that have created change for themselves and capitalised from it at the same time. Apple are the current example held up for all to see, but we are also aware of those organisations that avoided change and paid the ultimate price. Kodak, Western Union and Nokia all classic examples.

Change can certainly lead to growth and advantage and opportunity. But it can still hurt. Like hell.

So how to cope? How to deal with it? Thats the question. Everyone will tell you its inevitable, and that good will come out of it, but how does that help when you’ve just been kicked in the guts and can’t get your breath?

For me, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey has a good stab at an answer. Covey talks about proactivity rather than positivity. Proactivity is the capacity to bounce back by remembering one has ‘response – ability’. The ability to chose the way we respond.

Professor Stephen R. Covey
Professor Stephen R. Covey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not the reaction you’ll note, the response. No one can govern the reaction that proper, root and branch change can illicit. The feelings we’ve talked about here can’t be offset or avoided by having a ‘positive mental attitude’. Positivity, this ridiculous notion that the smile on your face will defeat the approaching storm needs to be unmasked for the tosh it is.

Rather we need to focus on our own power of choice. The power we have to chose what we will do next. To chose to be down if we feel like, and the power to pick ourselves up and fight another round too. The power to start afresh and to look at the world differently. Sometimes it can be prompted by someone else for sure, but its in all of us.

What about you? Whats your favourite ‘cure’? How do you deal with what we are talking about here? I’ve avoided quotes in this article, but are there any famous sayings or inspirational books you always turn to when times get tough?

Let me know in the comments, As always, I really look forward to hearing from you!

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10 thoughts on “The Change Myth

  1. as a great Doctor once said, ‘change my dear, and not a moment too soon’ ….. Unpleasant, uncomfortable, but necessary and always one of those cant see the woods for the trees things, in my experience. Its rare you cant look back and see that something ultimately good came of your experience. Be that what you learned, or where it took you later. Ive not always enjoyed the changes that came my way, but Ive rarely resisted them.

    1. Thanks Paul. If you have acquired or were born with the ability to not resist change then congratualtions, I quite envy you!
      I also agree, its pretty rare to look back and not see a postive out of this stuff, but it does happen…

      1. Its very much a learned behaviour! And it hurts like hell sometimes. Certainly one of those keep calm and carry on/buy shoes/eat chocolate/dont blink times!

  2. I really enjoted this blog, particularly how we can’t change our reaction but its possible to alter our behaviour and to make a choice through being proactive, for now staying in the moment and taking it one step at a time is where I’m at with this topic.
    Perhaps its time to pick up the seven habits by the majestic Mr Covey? I’ll also be flinching forward in the face of lots of cold showers and breaking mugs in the coming weeks.

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