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Helena Önneby

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Be your own change agent

Change. What does the word evoke in you? Excitement, curiosity and anticipation or fatigue, anxiety and frustration? Probably some kind of mix because nothing is either or, right? I think most of us recognize the expression “the only constant is change”. Everything changes, all the time, no one can hide from it.

But then there are the changes that we ourselves initiate, that we are pushed towards or that we long for. A move, a breakup, a new job or a health challenge. Unlike, for example, a pandemic, in these changes we can have a much greater chance to be involved and prepare, to create good conditions for change.

I am currently training to be a change leader. The focus is on organizational changes, system implementations or new business strategies. But I believe that many of the principles can also be applied to our private change journeys. Let us explore the basics of change management.

Success factor 1: Purpose

For a successful change, we need to understand why. Why is this important? Why right now? A good way to get deeper into the purpose is “5 why’s”:

1. Why do you want to change your diet?

To get more nutrients through my food.

2. Why do you want to eat more nutrients?

Because I want to feel better and have more energy.

3. Why do you want to feel better and have more energy?

To wake up with energy and feel strong and happy.

4. Why do you want to wake up with energy and feel strong and happy?

Because life’s now and I want to be more present for it.

5. Why do you want to be more present for your life?

Because my kids grow up so fast and I do not want to miss it.

So, the deeper motivation for why you want to change your diet and eat more nutrition is to be able to be more present, happy and strong in your children’s upbringing. That purpose will help you much better when it feels daunting than a more superficial “everyone’s talking about nutrition right now, I should keep up”.

Success factor 2: People

Many years ago I was called in after a change journey that went really badly. They had built a new factory and moved machines and people in much the same way. Without taking into account that people need other things than machines and no one had really thought about it. Many of us have a natural resistance to change, we want things to stay the same; calm and safe. But since it’s no longer a choice, we need to learn what we need to cope with change in the best way.

Many of us experience twice as much fear of losing something as we have than we feel hope to gain something we don’t yet have. What are you afraid of losing in the change and how can you deal with that?

You probably recognize the “change curve” that in different models can go from anxiety to anger to sadness to apathy to frustration to curiosity to acceptance to enthusiasm. It’s good to know because when we ourselves are in the middle of a change, it can help to identify the feeling and thus support ourselves through the change. Think about where you are and what the resistance consists of? Where would you like to be? And what do you need to get there?

Success factor 3: Structure

The structure is probably the one most people automatically think about. What should I do? When should I do it? How should I do it? But we have a lot to gain from actually stopping here and consciously creating a real plan. Who can support me? What potential obstacles do I see already and how can I proactively deal with them? What do I need to say no to in order to make this change? How do I follow up and evaluate?

For me, it often helps to just create awareness about something to make it feel easier. Awareness of what actually motivates me helps me to anchor it in myself before I start. An understanding that change can feel scary helps me be softer with myself through it. Knowledge of the change curve makes me less shocked by my own reactions. And that I prepare before through good conditions gives me even more enthusiasm to get started and get through.

Change is a part of life and there is so much we can do to make it easier for ourselves. Be your own change agent.

This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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