In 2009, I knew I wasn’t in the right place. I tried to make myself fit in. Since I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole for most of my life, this wasn’t a new sensation. But something was different. I was looking for a sign or an opportunity or someone to tell me it was time to move along, but no message was coming through. An email ended up in my inbox. It’s the kind of email that you delete because it is so long and it’s from someone you don’t know and why waste your time wasting your time? For some reason, I did read it and it was about an event that was going to take place in a few weeks in MD. I called my sister-in-law and told her about it, and we decided to meet in MD and if the conference wasn’t anything we wanted to hear, we would spend the weekend together and catch up. She lived in NJ and I lived in TX.
We met there and something happened. The woman on stage was speaking directly to me. She was saying things I had only said to myself. She was the voice, the message and the opportunity to do something . . . and I did. The next Monday I went back to my office, I handed in my resignation and I finally took control of my life . . . I had the power to change.
Change is inevitable. Sometimes change is forced upon us, while other times we initiate it. How skilled are you at handling the need to shift course, whether it is brought on by external or internal forces? How do you tend to feel when you step outside your comfort zone? Exhilarated? Terrified? Lost? Remember, comfort zones are relative. Every time you step into uncharted territory, sooner or later you will find some degree of comfort there. Do not settle too deeply into this new comfort zone, as it may soon be time to step out again.
When you are in a leadership position, others look to you for cues as to how they, too, might manage shifting tides and forge bravely ahead. Here are some of the benefits of change:
- Personal growth-Every time something changes, you have the opportunity to grow and learn not only about “things” but also about yourself.
- Flexibility-Change forces us to be flexible. You must bend and shift to meet new circumstances.
- Situations improve-It may not look that way at first, but it is up to you to optimize the situation. You probably did not choose to be worse off than before—at least not for the long haul. So, whether the change was made by you, to you, or for you, get your big girl panties on and make improvements in your life.
- Your core values are tested and strengthened-No matter what comes your way, your core values are what define you, so look at change as a way to reinforce those values.
- You will become stronger-We all know the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I have found this to be true in my life. I also have learned that being stronger sometimes means asking for help.
- Opportunities will appear-They may be what you had hoped for, or they may be things you never previously considered. Be open and remain curious about what opportunities this change will bring.
While change can be difficult, not changing can be fatal. We probably all can name now-defunct businesses that did not adapt to the times or to changes in consumer preferences. This applies as much to people as it does to companies. I remember my father was a jeweler. He crafted very expensive pieces and during the recession in the 80’s, we all suggested that he bring in some less expensive pieces. They could still be unique, but they weren’t going to cost a small fortune. He was adamant that he didn’t need to change, and you know the saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I mentioned that perhaps we could bring in some local designers, some new ones that were starting out and had great promise. Again, he declined, and we stopped trying to show him how change could be powerful. In the end, his store closed, and he blamed everything except the power that he had to change. BTW, the designer that I had spoken to that was just starting out . . . David Yurman.
We are all going through a time where it seems everything is changing. The way you do business. The way you connect. The way you say hello. The way you take care of yourself. While you feel like nothing is the same, you are probably being pushed outside your comfort zone. It’s time for you to understand and then . . . accept change and be brilliant.
Start with baby steps. While some of our changes were thrown to us without any warning, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start with one step, then add another. Do not try to change everything at once. You will become overwhelmed, and when that happens, nothing else happens. Prioritize what needs to get done and start there. When you complete one baby step, go for another one. Do not forget to take a moment and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Throw in a reward or two and watch how quickly you move through your list.
Get support. Do not do it alone. Surround yourself with positive people who can provide experience, wisdom, and connections. They too are navigating these choppy waters. While you are asking for help, they are also receiving some from you.
Going back to the phrase “Change is Inevitable . . . let’s add on Growth is Optional.” Your reaction, attitude and behavior to change is in your hands. Remember . . . you have the power to change.
An old English proverb sums it all up, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”
To add levity while applying these needed course corrections, I like to declare, “Plot twist!” A little humor goes a long way.