Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Chaos of Change (part 2)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about change. I was specifically referring to one of the most recent changes in my life, my boyfriend Paul was moving to London and I was going to have to move house. I promised to keep my blog readers up-to-date with my progress along the change curve and this gave me an idea for a speech at my local Toastmasters Speaking Club, where I am a member. Tonight I spoke to my club about the "chaos of change" and was rewarded with "Best Speaker" of the evening, which I am incredibly pleased with. I decided that perhaps it would be good to share my speech on this blog, so here it is!
Mr. Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, most welcome guests. Good evening. “Who, in this room, is going through some sort of change in their lives at the moment?” Anyone? [I witnessed a number of hands zoom up]. It could be something big, maybe you’ve started a new job, moved house, got married or perhaps it is something smaller like joining a new club, getting a haircut or going on a diet.

Life is full of constant change, from the very big to the very small and we all choose to react to it in varying ways. However, academics have produced countless numbers of “change curves”, like the one you below, these diagrams are designed to help us understand the impact change has on our emotions. We can move through these emotional curves in a matter of minutes or sometimes it can take years. We also tend to be going through multiple change curves at the same time.

In business, the objective of many of those who work in ‘change management’ is twofold, to minimise the impact change has on our emotions and shorten the amount of time in which we move through the curve. The aim is also to reduce resistance to change and smooth the process. I have been lucky enough to come into contact with the subject in my job and have found it absolutely fascinating, I hope I will be able to share my fascination with you this evening. I am naturally starting to apply my change management knowledge to my personal life and I wanted to walk you through a change curve using one of my own personal experiences. Recently, my boyfriend Paul was offered a job in London. This triggered quite a big change in both of our lives. Although I knew he had been applying to jobs outside of Cheltenham, when he told me about the offer, it was still an unexpected shock.
Stage 1, Anxiety/Shock – Did he really want to move to London? What was I going to do? I would have to find somewhere new to live and leave our apartment.
This was a scary thought but quite quickly my emotion changed to:
Stage 2, Happiness – Paul had found himself a great opportunity and I was happy for him. I was also going to have the chance to make some new friends in Cheltenham, with my newly found free time.  I was also going to finally be able to make my bedroom really girly (something Paul had never let me get away with) and most importantly I could make sure that the loo seat would stay down!
A few weeks later I moved into: Stage 3, Denial – This is an optional stage that goes off the change curve at a tangent.With 6 days to go till I needed to move, I had left my stuff unpacked and I hadn’t found anywhere to live. I just assumed that if I didn’t do anything, nothing would change. (Note to self – this is not true and by waiting, I have now ended up living with 3 boys and that damn loo seat is back up again!) Stage 4 and 5, Fear and Anger – These two emotions came at the same time for me but thankfully they were fairly short lived. After Paul had packed his things and moved to London, I felt very much alone. I had taken for granted someone to walk home with who would actually be interested to hear about my day (or at least pretend to be!). I returned to my empty house to do the last-minute packing, cancel bills, arrange for cleaners and do all the things that you have to do, whilst Paul was enjoying the delights of the capital city. I have to admit I was pretty angry to have been left with all the responsibility.
This stage was followed by:

Stage 6 and 7, Guilt and Depression -  These are not nice stages, you are at the bottom of the curve. I felt guilt for not being more happy for Paul and I felt depressed at what had been lost and a realisation of what would never be again.
Having worked with the change curve before, I knew that I had to pull myself up and reach:

Stage 8, Gradual Acceptance - I’m naturally quite a positive person, so I tried to think about the many new doors that could be opened by this change. The first positive that I came up with was that I would now have a good excuse to go to London shopping, regularly. A few years ago, I moved to Mexico for a year, leaving Paul 7000 miles behind and whilst I was drinking tequila and making new friends, he was experiencing a similar change curve ... So I think that I have to accept that 2hrs15 on the train to Paddington is not quite as bad as the 18hr flight he made 4 times!
Resisting change wears down our bodies, taxes our minds, and deflates our spirits. It is important to try and move on and find something positive from within the change as quickly as possible. Change is inevitable and whilst it can be scary and unsettling, it can bring many unknown opportunities and possibilities.

I hope that you take away from my speech the courage to face change head on. Remember courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage in the face of change is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.

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