It’s a relatively small word, but one that can strike fear into the hardest heart.
For the last decade or so, we have been constantly told that change will continue to happen, it will continue to happen more often and that the need for change will continue. We live in times where it would seem that nothing remains constant.
And when we hear about the ‘need for change’ we often become fearful, angry, pessimistic, cynical or just disbelieving!
Yet if we think about our lives, from the time of childhood we have naturally adapted to change. We grew up, moved house, we changed schools, we made new friends, we lost others. None of these experiences was particularly easy, but we got through them and we learned in the process. We adapted. We changed. We fitted in. Perhaps others fitted in around us.
What were the common features? Well let’s think about changing school. I think …
- We needed to plan. A new school meant perhaps new subjects, new books, new challenges. With the help of teachers we planned for our new venture. And where we didn’t or couldn’t, it was all the more difficult to make a good start.
- We understood the message. We knew we were going to a new school and we knew when. It wasn’t a surprise when it happened. We may not have liked the idea, but we settled in much more quickly when we bought into it and accepted the change.
- We needed to adapt to survive. We moved to a new school and needed to learn the building plan, the teachers, the new timetable, in order to operate effectively within that environment. If we moved to a school where we were met by friendly faces who helped us settle in and showed us around, we settled in more easily. If we were left to fend for ourselves, it was much more difficult and a much less pleasurable or easy experience.
- We needed to change some behaviours. Some things that were acceptable in our previous school or at our previous age level needed to be modified or adapted to the new environment or culture. Some things different. We had to know the difference and act accordingly.
- We formed new relationships (and perhaps lost some). In our new environment we met new people, perhaps whom we had never seen before, and built new relationships. Some didn’t get off to a good start. Others worked immediately, perhaps because we and our new friend ‘clicked’ in some way that made the process easier. Some relationships dropped away, for a variety of reasons, but our social and working structure and support changed.
- We started working according to the new rules. We adapted to the rules and regulations, we worked to the new timetables and in accordance with the wishes of our new teachers and mentors. And as we settled in, we also contributed to the life of the new school making our own little imprint in sports, science, arts, mathematics … whatever. We converted the plan into something personal and made it happen, not only for ourselves but also for others. If we didn’t, we became familiar with detention, or exclusion, or pain!
- Our working style became part of us. As we settled in to the new way of doing things, what we practised became habit, and a pattern for our daily, weekly, monthly routine … until the next change!
The fact is that most of the time we survived. Unfortunately, as we grow older and often have more control over our life, we fall into patterns of doing things which last for longer periods of time. Therefore, change becomes more difficult.
We know that for change to be effective, it must be well-planned and executed, but we also know that if we look back into our history we have faced it and come through it … in one piece.
Sometimes the biggest barrier to change is in our minds, through fear of the unknown and a fear that we may not be able to handle it. But we have in the past. And that should be an encouraging start. We may not like the thought of change, but it is here to stay. So the better we handle it, the better we are equipped to face and conquer the next challenge … and the next change.