Aside from death and taxes, we can depend on change. Change occurs whether we want it to or not. We have big choices: when to embrace or reject these changes. I don’t see just one extreme: embrace or reject. Instead, how can we create options that help us through the changes so we can embrace the outcomes of change?
Let me start with a personal story.
A colleague, Jim (a pseudonym), was worried. “My job is vanishing. No one wants what I do anymore. My boss said to me, “In it’s current form, what you do is no longer valuable. What do I do now?”
I gave my stock answer, that he could get a better job for more money.
He said, “I don’t want to. I want this job.”
He might be able to find a similar job. But, Jim is only 40. He has at least 25 more years to work. Either that, or he needs to find a rich relative who will fund the rest of Jim’s life.
I suggested that Jim might be better off finding something new now—as opposed to later. He could show a new employer his wide variety of skills as he learned to change how he worked.
He gave me that look and then said, “Why would I want to make my work obsolete early?”
“Because the market will do it for you if you don’t do it yourself.”
Jim is a little stuck. He has no control over these changes. And he can’t “just” embrace change. He wants to reject it for now. What can he do?
Find ways to adapt, one small piece at a time.
Adaptation Requires Options
If you’re old enough (!), think back to 2000 and how you used phones. Every household and company desk had a landline. If you had a cell phone, you didn’t have a smartphone—they didn’t exist. We had dumb, flip phones. They excelled at making phone calls. But texting? Oh, more than slightly painful.
Now, fast forward, just 20 years later to 2020. Most of us have smartphones. Many people don’t have a landline at home. And at work? If your office “hotels” people (don’t do that!) you don’t have a phone at all—except for your smartphone. Some companies provide a company smartphone, and that’s it. No desk phone.
That’s just in 20 years.
We didn’t get that way all at once. Technology offered us many steps to get to the next place. (First the large dumb phone, then flip phone, finally early smarter phones. Once we had smartphones, screens got larger and now we have phones we can talk to and swipe at.)
Technology adapted to new capabilities. And we adapted to new technology. We don’t have one phone for everyone—but we have many pieces of technology that most of us use.
We had options at every step for change.
That’s what we need, so we don’t just embrace or reject change. Instead, we proceed at a reasonable pace.
Find Your Pace of Change
Most of the time, we can determine our own pace of change. The more I spoke with Jim, the more he realized he’d rejected all the overtures his boss had made to him over the past few years. His boss had offered training. And asked Jim to take on different responsibilities. Jim had always declined those possibilities.
After we spoke, Jim decided it was time to see if those opportunities were still available. They were.
Jim isn’t happy about having to change. However, he’s a lot more positive about being employed.
When I asked Jim to describe where he thought he was in the Satir Change Model, he told me he was exploring, as in the image above. He gave himself three months to explore.
Embrace or reject change is a false choice. We can discover our own pace for change when we create more options.
That’s the question this week: When do you choose to embrace or reject change?