“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma
The above is a quote that has been thrown around a lot at our company as of late. In September 2017, our organization underwent a big transition when our founder and CEO stepped down from his role. A panel of select employees along with members from an investment company hired a highly capable and culturally aligned individual to take his place. However, as the above states, change is hard at first.
Our founder and former CEO is a very charismatic and passionate leader. Picture a person with the moral drive of Malala paired with the swaggy candor of Bono. That isn’t to say those traits are also shared by our current CEO, and yet, there are many employees who were very bought into following the man who started this company. With him out of the picture, several of my colleagues went through feelings of sadness, confusion, and even abandonment. Fortunately, most have jumped on board with the change in leadership and the new strategies that have come with it. They are embracing the messy middle in exchange for a gorgeous ending. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in the hard beginning and, as a result, do not have a positive outlook on this change and are happy with some or all of the direction our company is now taking.
Personally, I don’t like doing the same thing all the time so I have an easier time embracing change in my professional life. In my opinion, that’s the beauty of working at a technology company – it is an industry that requires change. I also understand that change is not easy for everybody. If you are one of those people who have a hard time with change or are currently experiencing a similar shift at your place of work, here are some tips on how you can “look on the bright side” and maintain a positive outlook in the face of change:
Keep an Open Mind
Keeping an open mind is just a good way to live your life, with or without change. This becomes especially important when you are faced with the “unknown”. Our company has already gone through some changes and we have been made aware of more change coming in the near future. However, I would be naïve to think that the bus/boat/(insert your favorite vehicle analogy) stops at what has currently being communicated to my colleagues and I. Keeping an open mind with in progress and yet to be realized change will allow you to not only adapt quickly, but will also keep you blissfully sane while you wait.
Worry About You
On the topic of maintaining your sanity – stop worrying about what others are doing or are not doing, in as much as it affects your work. If someone quits or leaves a scathing, anonymous comment in a company-wide survey, don’t waste energy trying to figure out the “why”. If you are truly concerned and are already friends with the person who quit or you are certain who wrote that comment, just talk to them. If you’re not and their decision and/or attitude does not influence your work, forget about it! People have all sorts of reasons for saying or doing certain things and if you try and assume those reasons…well…you know the phrase ;)
Don’t Feed the Beast
In addition to minding your own business, if you want to keep a positive outlook in the face of change, do NOT feed the (gossip) beast. Similar to keeping an open mind, this is a good philosophy to put into practice in all areas of your life. If you find yourself being lured by someone to gossip, be the person who shuts it down. For example, if you see a Slack message that starts with “Did you hear about what (so and so) did? I heard that _______”, reply with whatever comes next, “No, I didn’t hear that” or “Is that what (so and so) told you?” Chances are this person did not hear it from the horse’s mouth and the latter should stop them in their tracks.
Focus on Gratitude
Whenever I find myself focusing on the negative, I always remind myself of how much I have to be grateful for. Whether I choose to write those things down in a journal, list them off silently while meditating, or share them with a friend, focusing on what I do have v. what I don’t have helps me maintain a positive outlook. For anyone reading this article, you have a LOT to be grateful for! Incorporating gratitude into your daily routine now will make it easier to keep looking on the bright side when unexpected change comes knocking on your door.
Don’t Bring Work Home
I know I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of implementing the above tips in your personal and professional life, but there is also a lot to say for separating those two worlds. If change at work or the reactions of others to that change is bringing you down, repeat the following: “what happens at work, stays at work.” I realize there are some major workplace changes that could impact your personal life, but in as much as you can help it, keep work at work. For those who work from home, if you don’t do this already, make sure you have a dedicated workspace that is for work only. That way you can physically step away from it at the end of each day.
I hope you find the above tips helpful as you work on maintaining a positive outlook in the face of change. I promise that once you start putting these into practice they will start to happen naturally in your day-to-day life.
On top of experiencing changes at work, I am also getting ready to experience a big change at home: having a baby. I am two weeks away from my due date and have a lot of positive feelings about this new adventure: being a mom for the first time, having a cute baby at home, and raising a kind child. However, since I am (a hormonal) human, those happy feelings have also been paired with moments of self-doubt, comparing myself to seemingly more capable mamas, and kicking myself for not starting a diaper savings account. Whenever those thoughts start creeping in I will take a few, deep breaths, walk around our neighborhood, or simply close my eyes and remind myself that life is a highway…I mean a journey ;) Even with the best intentions and a number of coping strategies in your tool belt, it’s impossible to look on the bright side 100% of the time.
In the words of the great spiritual leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.”