I know I have a reputation for being a hippy-dippy "bloom where you're planted" sort of mouth breather from time to time. I'm not always that way, sometimes I'm not even remotely that way, but just as with many of life's Grand Lessons, I think if you repeat something often enough to yourself you start to maybe "get" it. And in the grand scheme of life's plans I firmly believe in the value of striving to find peace - if not outright pleasure - in accepting the material circumstances I find myself in.
There have been times in my life I've been truly unhappy in my circumstances. Sometimes I really did try to make the best of things, sometimes I didn't. When I did try, though, if honest trying didn't bring about a level of situational peace I really could live with, I moved on. In retrospect I believe that often those situations really weren't a good fit, and divorcing myself from them was the best choice. Not always, of course, but I can live with that.
I've been with my current employer for a little over six years now. I genuinely mean it when I tell you that I want to be working for them until I retire. Its a great place to work, great people, great products, interesting business and I've learned much. The last year or two, though, were a lot of stretching for me. We partnered up with another company and began to third-party some of our business processes over to this other group. Some of those processes happened to be what I liked to think of as my business processes. This new partnership meant my life and the lives of many of the people I work with would change, in some cases significantly. This new partnership is also vital to supporting the long term growth of my company. Without it we might still grow, but not in an efficient way, not in a way that maximizes our use of space, time and people.
There are a lot of people out there who make a living off of helping people to implement, drive and survive change. Its a growth industry. Pick your program, there are lots of them -- everything from the basic "Who Moved My Cheese?" series to Spiral Dynamics. You can have anything from a course-completion certificate to a PhD and make a comfortable living as a writer or a consultant in the field of corporate change management. And no wonder -- most people don't like change. The most successful people in the world thrive on it, the happiest people in the world either already know or have successfully learned how to live with it. There are a lot of different folks with a lot of different formulas that can tell you how to how to get there, but I believe ultimately people can't - or won't - learn how to successfully navigate change until they are faced with a situation where the reward for making the change is so meaningful that it completely obliterates the alternative as a viable choice.
Some change management programs try to teach people to embrace what can't be changed in the hopes of finding peace, if not meaning, in the new reality. Other programs explore the psychology of change. Spiral Dynamics teaches that successful change happens when people have both the need for change and the resources to navigate the change. Without the resources necessary to make the transition, many people will experience great stress and ultimately be bypassed by a change they are not able to make.
That's where I found myself the past year or two. I struggled at first. Visibly. It was noticed. I didn't help myself or my future opportunities; in fact, I hurt them. But I was fortunate in having a lot of support from a few peers, from friends, from SG. I was able to evaluate the need for me to change with a clear understanding of what both the costs of and the benefits to change might entail. Eventually I made a decision to not just fight the change but to go along with it in a positive way. It was hard at first - I had to pretend. A lot. Paste on a smile and say "OK" when I felt like flipping everyone the bird and hiding in a corner with a bottle of chardonnay and some powdered donuts. Eventually a day came when I actually found myself embracing the changes, and beginning to finally live in the moment, enjoying what I happened to be doing at that moment instead of worrying about what I would or wouldn't be doing in the future.
Because of that I was given the role of working on assignment at the location of our new business partner as a problem solver and a liaison between them and our transition team. I'm busier than I can ever recall being in any job - not just task-busy, but mind-busy too. Every day brings new opportunities to find solutions, to support people and to help make something happen. Every day I get to experience success in both small and large ways, and I get to enjoy it in a way that I could never have if I hadn't found the way to not just live with my new normal but to completely embrace it. Even better? I've had an opportunity to have a very positive impact on an important project and the visibility can only improve my career outlook down the road.
Embracing this transition has involved releasing some deeply-held fears. I have feared no longer having importance. I have feared loss of status. I have feared confrontation and having other people be right where I was wrong. I have feared being left behind, left out, held back, pushed out. At some point I was drinking from the end of a fire hose full of fear, and I realized that my fear was what was hurting me, not the change itself. I had to stop worrying about what might happen and start being part of what was already happening. And so I decided that was what I would do, and from that point on, everything has felt different. Not perfect, not always , but so much better.
I realized after going through all of this that I didn't actually know or believe as much as I thought I did about living in and through change. And honestly, I really did think I knew a lot. I've been through a lot of change, but apparently not as gracefully as I could or ought have. That's humbling.
(Not only is it humbling but it leads me to consider all the other things I think I know lots about and wonder when those "learning opportunities" are going to present themselves. Oh, GREAT.)