Like money, change does funny things to people. We behave in ways that are out of character, we experience new feelings and our emotions are sometimes off the chart. Why is that?
As humans, we like our world to be in order. The more order our world has, the less stress we experience. As creatures of habit, we create rituals, cadence and rhythms that determine what happens and when. We like to be in our flow, we like to feel in control, and we very much like everything to go to plan. It’s the certainty that makes us feel safe.
How Does Change Effect the Brain?
The thing about change is that it’s a bit of a one-way street. By this I mean it’s exciting when it’s done by us, but it is threatening when it is done to us.
Our brain is hard wired to scan for threats, when it spots one, it applies an automatic physiological reaction that triggers a stress response, and this response prepares our bodies to act. We either:
- Tackle the threat head on (Fight)
- Run for the hills (Flight)
- Freeze (Fright).
In a split second, our brain has calculated the response for us.
Now this was extremely useful in the grass lands, and mountains. Our life depended on it. Today, our grass lands and mountains are at home and at work. The brain, however, is still hard wired to keep us safe. It helps us deal with life’s changes in our professional and personal life and still applies the same fight, flight, and fright response. This is when we find ourselves behaving in funny ways. The reactions to change we experience are the same that we used to experience millions of years ago.
How Can We Leverage Our Natural Threat Response to Change?
Our behaviours are a perfectly normal, and appropriate response to threat. This is not about preventing these behaviours as they are life savers! This is more about becoming informed and conscious of them and how change is impacting us. By doing this we can feel much more in control. Here’s how:
Become more conscious of our journey through change. It can helps you be in the moment, understand where you are and keep you moving.
Let’s look at a typical journey through change. The table below shows just how emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting change can be for us.
As you review this and, if you are going through a change now, (the likelihood is that you are) see if you connect to a particular stage and ask yourself: What am I learning from this?
Being present and in the moment with our experiences can help us in three ways:
- Making sense of what is going on
- Placing ourselves along our journey of change
- Navigating to the next stage.
The worst thing you can do during times of change is stand still for too long.
Six Predictable and Sequential Stages of Change
This is image is adapted from the book, The Change Cycle by Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock
Take some time to review your journey against this image, let's go through some questions on change and see where you're at.
What do you notice about the colours?
The colours are significant as it provides us with a highly visual way of associating our journey through change. Red means we stop and wait. Amber, we prepare to move and green means that we go.
What do you notice about the energy and perspective?
Stages one, two and three are highly emotional, our perspective is inwardly focused, and our energy is drained by the emotional roller coaster. Stages four, five and six are still highly emotional however, our perspective is outwardly focused. Our energy on the other hand is positive and fulfilling accompanied by clarity and purpose.
What stage are you in now and what will help you move to the next?
I hope you have gained some new insights into how our behaviour is influenced by change. With all the emotion and commotion we experience during times of change, it’s no wonder we behave a bit odd sometimes.
Do you wish you could feel more in control during times of change? Are you responsible for leading a team through change?
I help clients reduce anxiety and stress through building the skills, mindsets and strategies needed to deal with the emotion and commotion of change and accelerate their journey to full integration.
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Speaking of Change, Why Not Look for Your Next Opportunity
If you’re interested in a career change but not sure where to start, why not read some of the job descriptions on the Jobs/Redefined job board, which states. Despite what some people would have you believe, you can live your best life at 50 and beyond and Jobs/Redefined aims to inspire and support you in whichever way you need.
Article written by Amanda Page, founder and director of Change Tempo Ltd