If you were like me, as a kid, you faced change head on and did so pretty often.
Every year, you’d get a new teacher, were put in a new class or sent to various lessons, played on new sports teams. In summer, you’d go to camps with new kids and group leaders.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever remember being asked, “Hey Paul, would you like to do this or that?” I just remember ending up in a lot of new situations. It just happened and I had to deal.
We may not have realized it but, as kids, change was around every corner and yes, sometimes it was scary. But you know what? We dealt and I don’t ever remember complaining about “change”.
We had resilience.
So now that we’re all grown up, where did our resilience go, and more importantly – how can we get it back?
How much do we hate change anyway?
This is how bad we are…in Alan Deutschman’s book Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life, he informs us about numerous studies that show that 9 out of 10 people won’t change their lifestyles or behaviours even if their life depends on it. We hate change so much that only 10% of us are willing to make the necessary changes to save our own life. Ok…now that’s bad.
How we got here.
As we grew up, we formed ideas about the things we liked in life and the way we wanted our life to be. We worked hard at figuring out who we were and the goals we wanted to pursue. We narrowed our educational focus, becoming better and more knowledgeable in a certain area. We worked toward a stable income in order to lessen the unpredictable things that were going to occur in our life – i.e we worked to mitigate change.
We also looked for comfort in every aspect of our life from things as simple as a favourite piece of clothing, a comfortable chair to watch the game in (maybe that’s just a guy thing), or that house with our dream kitchen. Maybe a life partner to add to our security or comfort.
ALL GOOD THINGS, RIGHT?
Except, a side effect of making our lives more stable is that we decreased our resilience to change. And now when it happens, we just don’t like it!
Unless you’re foolish enough to become a musician.
I did all those things as well except I was foolish enough to pursue a career as a classical musician. You know… a career where there is no job fair at the end of university. As most reasonable people know, a career as a freelance musician is incredibly unstable.
One upside, though, was that my early career as an orchestral percussionist let me experience more change than someone with what we call “a real day job”. One could even argue that percussionists in particular are masters of change because our “tools” (the instruments we play) often change from composition to composition. From the bongos to the triangle, that’s our niche.
Once, I even had to play the snowmobile on stage wearing my tuxedo– no, I am not kidding! At the time, I found all this change quite exciting.
I don’t freelance that much anymore but living that life for a long time has helped give me some insight into dealing with change.
Here a few tips that can help you be more resilient:
1. Remind yourself that change is the natural flow of things in life.
The only way to make this work for you is that you have got to take the time to reflect and acknowledge the changes you have already been through and survived. Remember, change has been happening to you since before you were born.
2. Keep an eye on the future and the new things coming down the pike.
You’ve got to pull your head out of the sand and see what’s happening or else you’re in for a big surprise. The trouble with being comfortable in your life or your work is that it’s easy to stop looking around and see what’s going on.
I had an older Dad – it always amazed me how, in his late 70’s, he took a course to learn how to use this new device that my local high school had purchased called a “computer”. He said it was going to change everything- hmmm, guess you were right, Dad.
3. Try to look for the positive.
Listen, I know this is so hard, sometimes darn near impossible. Life can throw us some horrible stuff and there can be a ton of emotion associated with some changes. But with time, you might see something positive.
I know someone who lost both her elderly parents in the last year. That was very painful for her. But I heard her say (some months later) that she was able to enjoy a visit to a family member’s place in the country in a different way now because she could get outside a little more than before since she no longer needed to care for her ailing parents. There’s looking at the bright side. I find her positivity and optimism inspiring.
4. Know that there are going to be growing pains.
It’s just the way it is. Whether you’re trying to improve yourself (tried a new workout routine lately or tried to quit a bad habit?), the change is going to hurt somehow. There’s going to be a period of adjustment.
Don’t beat yourself up over this. It’s normal. If you can, try to take some time to prepare for the change and think about how you are going to deal with it before it happens.
5. Know what you can and can’t control.
I’m not saying just sit back and take it. There are some changes that occur in life that are worth challenging with a fight and some you’re better off accepting. Only you know what those are. But knowing when to just let some things run off your back and move on is a valuable skill.
Make sure you have a change support group. It could be people from work or it could be friends or family. But make sure you have someone to talk to about the changes occurring in your life. It will make all the difference.
I guess I'm lucky
I get to see resilience to change in action in my work wherein I take a group of corporate non–musicians and have them improvise on hand drums and percussion instruments together. Yes, they create their own piece on the spot.
To do this, I let them start by playing a pattern of their choosing and let them play for a while. I don’t mention anything to them about changing patterns.
Yet during the piece, change always happens.
Most people naturally change their patterns at some point and this is a great example of how change is a natural phenomenon. Usually the piece continues to morph as more people add their changes. Most often the group naturally adapts to the changes.
And yes… some people do not change – which is also interesting. Overall it’s a great demonstration of how people are more resilient to change when it occurs slowly and they have time to figure out how to react to it.
Sometimes in this exercise, people make dramatic changes, so much so that the piece crashes. This demonstrates that if changes are too big or too sudden, and if people don’t have time to think how to react, the outcome will not be good.
Interestingly, the next time we do the exercise it always goes better.
This time they know there will inevitably be changes occurring. But now they’re prepared and paying attention. This lets them adapt and make choices. It’s all here: the stability, the changes, the support group. No matter what occurs, now they have developed some resilience and can decide how they want to handle change. It’s truly fascinating.
You and me both
After I get up from this computer and you finish reading this, we will both no doubt fall back into our daily routine.
This time though, I hope that my humble words will serve as a reminder (to you and me both) to occasionally take the time to remember what we’ve been through and to try to look ahead once in a while so that we can be more resilient when change happens. Because it’s not if change is coming, it’s when.