You go to your favorite restaurant and they have taken your favorite menu item off the menu. Boo hoo. You’re told by the Accounting Manager that you have to use a new expense system instead of the tried and true excel sheet you have always used. Aargh. Your husband calls to say he won’t be home for dinner after you’ve already started cooking a feast for four (and the dog doesn’t like pot roast). Sigh. Change is constant and it’s making you at the very least frustrated, if not leaving you completely overwhelmed.
In the day and age of VUCA world, an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, it can feel like it’s completely out of control. Or as Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine wrote in their HBR article, “What VUCA Really Means for You“: Hey, it’s crazy out there! What’s important is to not take this constant change personally. When the client cancels or your daughter is two hours late, you internalize it as the universe striking out against you once again and you slowly start feeling helpless. Or as Eeyore would say, “The sky has finally fallen, I always knew it would.” Resisting change requires a lot of effort and energy and, if you think about it, it’s quite futile.
Here are 4 tips to reducing resistance to change:
- Reduce your distractions. I wrote in my last post that watching the news everyday increases your feelings of helplessness. 95% of what you see or read in the news is completely and utterly out of your control (and we all want control). When your mind is constantly being distracted by news and notifications (i.e. email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), you start to feel helpless and overwhelmed. You are primed to rebel against the next change. So when the new company initiative gets rolled out you start to think “not one more thing!” I have turned off all my notifications on my phone except for phone calls and texts. I’ll find out what email I have twice a day instead of constantly checking my phone. The reduction in distractions has made me calmer and open to what might be coming next. So if the meeting is cancelled or your boss scraps your project, you won’t fall into overwhelm.
- Rituals and routines. I think I have close to 25 morning habits and I keep adding. Weigh myself, take my medication, brush my teeth while saying affirmations, water pik, grab my sneakers, let out the dog, turn on the outside light, feed the dog, grab my phone and earbuds, sit in my swinging chair, listen to my Calm app for 10 minutes of meditation, grab a cup of coffee, move to my recliner and listen to my Whil app for mindfulness guidance for 10 minutes, wish everyone happy birthday and post a positive meme on Facebook, mental exercise with Lumosity app, study two Spanish sections on my Duolingo app, put my sneakers on, take out the recycle, turn on my book on Audible and take a 30 minute walk, take a shower, dress, drink breakfast smoothie and head to work. The point of all of this is that I can control these things. I do all these things, all the time(for the most part, I don’t travel with my water pik) and I feel the rhythm. I feel in control. It helps be feel empowered over my day. When other people get defensive in a meeting, I am able to take it in and not react. I respond. So when there is an unexpected change, I just roll with it.
- The glass is half full. Having a positive outlook is imperative in the VUCA world. Kelly McGonigal wrote about this in her book called the Upside of Stress. She recommended reframing the latest stress as a “challenge” rather than a detriment. My husband has caught me saying, “I’m anxious about this speaking engagement” and he’ll correct me. “You mean, you are excited.” It’s much more empowering to feel excited versus anxious. So if the project needs to get done by 8 AM instead of next week, try thinking, “Wow, this is a real challenge, I’m excited.” Your cortisol level will remain low and you will be able to work more efficiently. Stress typically takes you to your primitive brain that shuts done your prefrontal cortex where you do your best thinking. When you can reframe the change as a positive, you can recover your prefrontal cortex and get back to your best thinking.
- Connect with others. As McGonigal wrote, “Connection with others activates prosocial instincts, encourages social connection, enhances social cognition, dampens fear and increases courage. You want to be near friends or family. You notice yourself paying more attention to others, or are more sensitive to others’ emotions.” The best way to do this, if possible, is in person. If your boss cancels the project, walk over to her office and find out the rationale behind the cancellation. If you sit in your cube and ruminate about the change, in all likelihood your self-critic will be on steroids. “She doesn’t trust me. I’m in competent. She’s going to fire me.” If walking into their office isn’t possible, go ahead and pick up the phone. DO NOT EMAIL or MESSAGE. It’s so easy to read into things too much based on the written word. Personally connecting in person or by phone builds the relationship.
Controlling what you can control and letting go of what you can’t is the key to staying on top of the VUCA wave and not being crushed into the sandy surf. You are only responsible for you.