Posts Tagged ‘navigating change’

Growing in personal agility

changeaheadArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

When I was first divorced I was very self-conscious going out alone in public. I remember I went to a restaurant, Mimi’s Cafe, in attempt to do something fun on my own like you’re supposed to. It was nothing short of disastrous. I felt like everyone there stared and noticed that I was alone and wondered why?, then had quiet, hushed discussions about how unfortunate my situation was. Of course they weren’t even thinking about me at all, but that is how one’s thought processes are muddled after being married for years then suddenly alone. It’s as if a part of your very being is missing, amputated, and you are going out in public half exposed, naked, like in a bad dream. I choked down my French onion soup and fled as soon as I paid the bill, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, shamed with the acute awareness of my awkwardness in this new, changing situation.

Personal agility is a competency of emotional intelligence, and it was obvious at the time that I had very little of it.  People who are strong in this area are able to manage shifting sands with ease — heck, they can even anticipate the need for change before it comes about!  And not only can they manage it, they have learned to embrace change, and are quick to look for the benefits and positive outcomes that will most likely come about because of the shift.

Oh, what a far cry from my night at Mimi’s!

How is your personal agility?  If you’re like me, you may notice that you tend to deny, ignore, and resist the need for change.  You can feel your discomfort levels rise when you sense a shift occurring.  A common place it happens is at the office. You’ve been doing something one way for a long time, and it works, quite well thank you very much, then someone new comes in and scrambles things up.  New initiatives!  New platforms!  New managers!  And not just new — “new & improved”.  Why can’t we just keep doing things the way we were when the old way worked just fine?

The reality is we are engaged in an ever-changing, advancing environment that is not slow-as-molasses Mayberry, North Carolina, where the old ways of doing things are always the best ways of doing things. Unless we are willing to stretch and step out of our comfort zones, we’ll quickly define ourselves irrelevant and most likely, down the road, out of a job.

If you struggle in this area, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward the adventure of personal agility:

  • Accept that change happens–it always has and it always will.  And like it or not, there’s not a thing you can do to prevent it from occurring.
  • Allow yourself to feel.  The normal human response to change is denial and resistance.  If you’re feeling these, congratulations, your human! But you just don’t get to stay there.
  • Ask questions.  The more you can learn about and understand the changes, especially the why’s behind them, the more you can begin to wrap your head around what your next steps will be.
  • Acknowledge what is in your control and what is not. Focus on the things you can control (your attitudes and reactions) and not on the things you cannot (other people’s attitudes and reactions).
  • Adjust. This is where the hard part kicks in.  Whether or not you agree with the changes, your behavior (how you respond to the change) can be modified.  You’ll want to commit to keeping an open mind and maintaining the ‘big picture’ as you shift your perspective.
  • Accept the help of colleagues, friends, coaches.  Actively seek out people who can help you through the transition and encourage you to see things in a positive light.  Most everyone has had to adjust at one point or another in life, and hearing their stories of how they were resilient can serve as great encouragement.

Fast-forward fifteen years and here I sit at a table in the open, outdoor square of my little neighborhood, fringed with restaurants and bars and stores, and lots of people. Teenagers looking at their phones, trainers hunting for Pokemon, teetering toddlers climbing on the steps with parents hovering close by. A random camera guy taking photos of people and things, an old couple in matching shirts resting their weary shopper legs, lovers kissing, and friends and families eating dinner. I am sitting here alone, in a little dress with my hiking-sandaled feet kicked up on a chair, seeking a moment of respite at the end of 9 hours in front of a computer screen. I’m sipping on a glass of wine, relaxed and content.  I am people watching (obviously). I don’t care if they notice me or not. I look them in the eyes and say hi. Or don’t. I chat with a four year old with messy hair about the truck in his hand and smile at his mom. I feel confident. An attractive lady and her older boyfriend walked by and then she turned back, looked at me and said, “You look so cool sitting there sipping your wine with your red bicycle. Like a scene out of Paris. You just need flowers.” I added, “and a very handsome Frenchman.” They laughed and walked on, and I thought to myself, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  The ease of the entire situation was a banner of success in my fifteen-year pursuit of learning to adapt to change.

Then with the next sip of wine I inhaled too quickly and choked, so violently that I gagged and the wine threatened to come out my nose. I tried to suppress my cough, shoulders shaking in odd spasms, tears dripping down my face. So much for the chic, Parisian look of cool collectiveness.  Though my personality agility is definitely on the upturn, I’m obviously still awkward as all get out.  But at least nowadays it’s a confident awkwardness.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but those most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin