Stepping Through Change
Are you facing a change in either your personal or professional life and unsure as to how you are going to deal with it?
As I reflect on how I have managed change over the years, a pattern emerges. In order to embrace any major change and navigate a way forward, I first have to accept the change, build a picture of what the future will look like, create a recipe for success in this future life and develop a plan to navigate towards it.
When I have this rich picture of how I want my new life to be, I can hold it close when doubts arise, plans shift and hurdles present themselves. This applies both when I am driving the change and when a change is thrust upon me.
From my experiences of managing change, I have created the following six-step methodology and have interwoven one of my own stories of change to illustrate them in practice.
A number of years ago, I was becoming increasingly unhappy at work and when I attended a Franklin Covey training course and was asked – “What do You Want?” was surprised to find myself writing – “ Laugh more and spend more time with my son and husband.”
Stepping Stone One – Gaining Control
Change is so much easier to accept and navigate when you feel in control.
“What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?” – Every transition begins with an ending; in order for change to begin we first have to let go of something.
“What do I need to accept?” – What is within my control and what do I have no control over?
“What is standing backstage that needs to come to the forefront?” – As I consider my life so far, is there something lurking in the background that I wish I had done? Is there an alternative path I wish I had followed?
How can I drive this change? – What do I need to do to in order to get back in the driving seat?
What did I have to let go? As I reflected on this I came to the decision I had to let go of working for a company that had provided me with over 15 years of security and growth. I needed to accept that it was no longer making me happy or satisfying me professionally. Standing backstage for me was the desire to go back to university and study psychology. As I considered this idea and thought about how I could get back in the driving seat, I decided to start working on my exit strategy and consider how best to set myself up for success as a self-employed coach.
Stepping Stone Two – Imagining Your Future
Consider what you would like your new life to look like if there were no constraints.
“What do I want and what will that do for me?” – Imagine your future in detail using all your senses. What will you see, hear and feel when you are living your new future? What will others see you doing and hear you saying?
Life then presented me with unexpected twists, my company embarked on a major downsizing exercise and my husband was offered an expat assignment to Houston, Texas. My son was 13 years old and it was too drastic a change to consider a move to Houston with us both holding down full time jobs. When I created a future picture of life in Houston I saw me being happy and smiling, collecting my son from school, sitting round the dinner table chatting with my family. I felt re-charged. So scary as it was when I reflected on what it was that I wanted, I decided to volunteer for redundancy and become a full time mother and wife. What it would do for me was give me time to recharge my batteries and be there for my son and husband through this major change in our lives as a family.
Stepping Stone Three – Creating Your Recipe For Success
Keeping your future life in sharp focus consider what the key ingredients are for you to successfully deliver this change. Build strategies to manage any constraints you may have or think you have.
“What change do I want to make and what will that look like?” – What do you need in your life for you to be happy? How might other people be affected by your new future? Is it under your control and can you both initiate and maintain it? What do you get out of your present way of doing things that you would wish to preserve? Is it worth the cost to you and the time it will take? Is the outcome in keeping with your sense of self?
What constraints do I have? – Are they tangible or intangible? Which are tangible and real but temporary i.e. they can be removed? If tangible and long-term – how can they be circumvented or re-framed? Are they intangible i.e. a negative thought, belief or assumption? If the constraint is a belief or assumption, look for evidence that it might not be true, find a belief or thought that would be more useful – and look for evidence to prove that belief. Act like your positive belief is so and embrace it – fake it until you make it.
For a time I was happy helping us all settle into our new life in Houston and threw myself into setting up home, saying yes to any invitations I received and navigating my way around living in the US. Then one day out of the blue I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying, something was missing. It was then that I re-considered what I needed in my life for me to be fully happy and fulfilled as a person, mother and wife
I figured out my recipe for success was to work, ideally to be self–employed, doing work I had a passion for and to have the time to learn new skills and enjoy all the benefits which living in the US offered. I did consider going back to university but quickly decided that the time was not right and it did not fit with my overall desire to be happier, less stressed and fitter. My constraints were, to find work which fitted in with taking my son back and forth to school and expat events and to be at home in the evenings so I could spend time with my husband and son.
Stepping Stone Four – Generating Momentum
To reach your new future YOU must take action and stay in charge of your goal– it is not down to others.
“What is my overall goal? What do I want to achieve and by when?” – What are the first steps I need to take to achieve this goal? What obstacles might I have to navigate round?
T hrilling – what would really get you moving? What excites you?
R esonance – what’s really important to you?
A ccountable – how will you hold yourself accountable for what you plan to do?
M easurable – what will success look like?
S pecific – what specifically will you do next and by when?
“Our dreams are just wishes if we don’t follow them through without action. And in life you have to be able to light your own fire” – Bear Gryllis
I mapped out my overall goal of what I wanted to achieve and by when – ‘within 12 months I will be a self-employed coach, trainer, and facilitator and have signed up to learn a new sport and skill.’
My first steps were:
- Explore how to work in the US and set myself up as self-employed
- Contact old colleagues to let them know I was looking to work again
- Sign up to learn to play tennis
- Engage my creative side my attending a monthly card making class
Stepping Stone Five – Keeping Focus
Once you have set your goal you will need to monitor your progress. Keep your new future in sharp focus and do not allow self-doubt to divert you from your target.
“What are the key tasks I am going to complete this week/month/day to achieve my future goal?” How can I chunk down my major goal into manageable pieces? What or who do I need around me to maintain my focus and momentum?
It took me over six months to attain my work authorisation to work in the US. During that time I identified the key tasks I needed in order to be ready to work when my work authorisation came through. There were lots of administrative tasks that I could do in the background whilst waiting but key to me working again was to establish Houston contacts. Through one of my old colleagues I was introduced to the owner of a Houston based company providing training, team building, coaching and facilitation services. Once my work authorisation came through she engaged me to work as one of her associates. I also started to talk about my coaching business at coffee mornings, to business contacts and at my son’s school and quickly picked up private clients.
Stepping Stone Six – Living Your New Life
Celebrate your new life. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Change is all around us so take time to reflect on your journey and capture your learning for future use.
“What did I do well? What did I do less well? What would I do differently?”
Within one year of arriving in Houston I was living the life I had visualised for myself and I felt happy and fulfilled.
As I reflected on what I did well, I patted myself on the shoulder for staying true to my vision, for raising my head above the parapet, daring to take a chance and driving through my plan. When I considered what I did less well, I think I took some risks professionally which could have backfired on me. What I would do differently is to guard against taking professional risks and not accept work I had little passion for and which put me under pressure and affected the family equilibrium.