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Change happens. “Change” went to high school and summer camp with “Death” and “Taxes”.  Change can’t be avoided (for long). Refuse/resist change or adapt too slowly and you are bound to experience negative outcomes, see performance suffer, and find yourself increasingly dissatisfied which can have a negative impact your career, personal health, and relationships. Building resilience to change and learning to accelerate the pace of change are vital life skills. Getting good at change is akin to having TSA Pre-check security clearance. You get through faster and with less stress. Your outcomes are better.

Major changes and transitions in life are often met with fear and resistance. Thankfully, change is not unique and commonalities exist between situations like moving to a new city, entering a new relationship, getting married, having children, getting divorce, starting a new career or job, losing a job, managing a chronic illness, or losing a loved one. Each of these situations forces us onto the “change curve”.  

The change curve represents the path we travel when moving through a change or transition in life.  It’s an upward sloping curve with a downward slope on the back side. It looks like a normal distribution or “bell” curve. This is a nice reminder that change is normal. We must effectively navigate transitions and change to survive, grow, and thrive in our lives.

Key Definitions:

The hill = We tend to resist change and rationalize away the need for it so the beginning of the curve is the hill. We climb a learning curve and overcome various forms of resistance, procrastination, and rationalization that can stall or slow the momentum needed for forward progress towards effectively managing the transition/change.

The steepness of the hill (y-axis)  = The steepness and length of the hill represents the intensity of the change or transition you face and relates to both the size and scale of the change you are facing, your resilience within the change process, and your ability to push through resistance. Losing a loved one or a challenging divorce will have a much steeper hill than having to find a new physician because yours has retired.

Time required to travel the curve (x-axis) = The time needed to move through the change/transition process effectively. It’s helpful to consider the time it took for someone you know to make a similar transition or change. You might learn of “the average time it takes” to do whatever it is that you need to do. In the book Transitions by William Bridges, he explains that transitions begin with an ending. A difficult end such as losing a job or ending a relationship can be accompanied by sadness, anger, insecurity, and other feelings of bitternesses. It’s human. The point is that the time spent “grieving” or time needed to “decompress” will naturally make the curve longer to navigate.

Area under the curve = Mathematically, the total area under a normal distribution curve is 1 or 100% I suggest that the area under the curve should be thought of as the experience and wisdom gained from going through the transition.  Going through something once helps make similar changes in the future less intense and time consuming because you’ve “been there before”.

5 Ways To Accelerate the “Change Curve” and Build Resiliency

1) Be Vulnerable: Give in order to receive. Practice leaning in to vulnerable conversations. Put aside your fear of showing a “crack” in your veneer or lack of perfection. When you’ve been laid off, it’s okay to say that you’re “bummed about it” or that “being back in the job market is a little scary”. If you’re mojo is low, tell someone that you need an “energy reset”. Get over feelings of shame or the feeling that the world is judging you negatively. You’re not the first one to go through it.   

2) Be Accountable to Yourself and To Someone Like You. First, be accountable to yourself. Set clear, specific, and achievable goals and break them down into steps or milestones to keep you on track. Tell others what you’re doing to bolster a sense of accountability to someone else or get more intentional by asking a friend or someone you trust to be an accountability partner for you to help you keep track of your goals and the progress you’re making towards achieving them. I have one right now helping me in a renewed commitment towards my physical health He’s helping me be accountable for getting to the gym more frequently and with more intentionality.

3) Eliminate or Outsource When Helpful. Identify areas of stickiness and resistance and when it makes sense, look for ways to eliminate non-urgent commitments and “outsource” tasks if it means they get done more quickly and better than if you did it on your own. Hiring a cleaning service if housework is preventing you from getting out or buckling down on another project. Use a grocery delivery service, hire an intern or delegate tasks if possible. Cancel your gym membership if your current gym is too far away or you’re not using the gym, paying for it and feeling bad about it.  Hire a trainer, coach or therapist if doing it on your own isn’t producing the outcomes and results you want. Want to get inspired? Read “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss if you want more inspiration.

4) Be an Agile Learner. Learning agility is the ease and propensity that you are interested and able to learn new things, new concepts, new ways of working. You can imagine this being helpful to a coal miner that needs to adapt to learn skills for an office job. A new CEO was an agile learner in order to navigate their organization and be elevated to the CEO Level. An existing CEO who changes companies or industries must be agile in order to repeat success in previous CEO roles.

5) Find a Mentor or Coach. The challenge may be difficult, but it’s not unique. With this in mind, the fastest way to accelerate a change or transition is to find a mentor or coach who has experience with the specific challenge you face or a proven track record of successfully managing change, transition and growth.  Whether a friend, counselor, therapist, career coach, colleague or family member, choose someone you trust and feel safe discussing the topic with. Three things you want from a mentor or coach are confidentiality, a sense of non-judgmentalness, and emotional intelligence. They have the power to validate and challenge your thinking, provide a visible path through a transition, hold you accountable along the way, and celebrate successes with you.