They say that the only constant in life is change. Lately, I am discovering that to be very true. I have recently embarked upon a BIG change in my life and even though this particular change has been a very positive one for me and my family, it has still been a bit scary and a challenge to navigate.
The change that I am currently experiencing is a change in my career. Last month I made the decision to leave my position as the Executive Director for Hope Lives Breast Cancer Support Center and accept an Executive Directorship for the Northern Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross.
While this change has most certainly been a beneficial one in terms of my career, income level and job satisfaction; it has not been an easy change for me to make and frankly…that surprised me a bit. I mean, why is change so hard–even when it is positive change?
As I thought about the change that I was embarking upon and the internal struggle that I was experiencing, I uncovered three themes that seemed to be at the forefront of the resistance that I was encountering. Even though I was incredibly excited about the new opportunity in front of me and so honored that I was the candidate who was chosen to fill the new role, I still battled internally with issues revolving around comfort, loyalty and fear. As I did a little research on the subject of change management, I discovered that these very issues are three of the most common barriers to change that people experience. This made me feel a little better as it reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle; however, it still left me at a loss as to how to successfully overcome these barriers.
Common Barriers to Change
1.) Breach of One’s Comfort Zone: We all know just how challenging it can be to break out of our comfort zones. This was definitely a struggle for me as I thought about leaving my position at Hope Lives. Though my work at Hope Lives was incredibly demanding, it was also very familiar. I had been serving as the Executive Director for Hope Lives for nearly six years so I had a good handle on the duties and responsibilities of the job and had experienced a great deal of success in the position. These feelings of familiarity had caused me to become extremely comfortable in that role and therefore hesitant to do anything that would disrupt that feeling of comfort.
2.) Loyalty: During my tenure at Hope Lives, I had become very close to the founder of the organization as well as to several of the organization’s board members. Even more important however, were the bonds that I had forged with the women who had received Hope Lives services and the relationships that I had developed with several of the amazing Hope Lives volunteers. These people meant the world to me and the thought of leaving them felt like such a betrayal on my part. I worried that people would be angered or worse–hurt, by my decision to leave. Often, the prospect of change is made more difficult because of our loyalty to people, processes or specific ways of thinking/behaving.
3.) Fear: As the Executive Director of Hope Lives, I had experienced a lot of success. I worked hard to take a financially struggling organization and transform it into a financially strong entity that was able to expand its service area and help more women than it ever had in the past. Because of these efforts, I was recognized by Mind + Body magazine as a 2015 Northern Colorado Superwoman and was honored to be named a 2015 Colorado Woman of Vision. It was hard for me to leave this success behind because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate it in my new job. I worried that I had bitten off more than I’d be able to chew with my new, bigger position and that I’d be a disappointment to those who had hired me. The feelings of confidence and competence that I had experienced at Hope Lives were replaced with positive feelings of excitement for my new adventure but also with feelings of fear of the unknown.
As I inched closer to my final days as the Executive Director of Hope Lives, it became clear to me that the only way that I was going to be able to gracefully maneuver through the transition into my new position would be to address each of these barriers in a way that fully engaged both the logical and emotional parts of my psyche. I was going to need to engage my head, my heart and my soul in order to successfully navigate the turbulent waters of change that were in front of me. Fortunately this approach worked so well for me that I now intend to use it anytime I am faced with the prospect of change and I feel confident that it can work for you as well.
When faced with the prospect of change (positive or negative) it is important to recognize the three phases of transition that you will go through and look for ways to engage your mind, heart and soul through each phase.
Three Phases of Change Transition
1.) Begin with an Ending: This phase involves letting go of old ways, breaking old habits, cutting old ties etc. Sometimes this phase is perceived as good and beneficial while other times it is regarded as negative and approached with fear and trepidation.
In my situation, making the decision to leave Hope Lives represented my ending. I engaged my head (my rational intelligence) by listing out all of the pros and cons regarding the career change. I also looked at the ways in which the change would impact my budget, my family time and my overall career goals. I compared insurance plans, retirement benefits and job expectations. When all of these various factors were written down in black and white, it became abundantly clear that (according to the facts) this ending was one that needed to happen.
Though the facts certainly seemed to suggest that changing jobs was in my best interest, I also wanted to engage my heart (my emotional intelligence) in the process. I had to examine my feelings regarding the change and consider the feelings of others who would be impacted by my decision. In doing so, I discovered that the biggest emotional challenge was going to involve saying goodbye to people that I had grown close to at Hope Lives. Overall though, my emotional landscape was one of excitement for the new opportunity. This helped to solidify to me the fact that this was indeed going to be a positive change.
Finally, I had to engage my soul (my spiritual intelligence) by making sure that this change was in alignment with the person that I desired to become and that my personal values would not be compromised.
After checking in with my head, heart and soul, it became clear to me that this ending was one that needed to take place. This process also helped me to feel more confident about my decision to implement this change.
2.) Navigate the Neutral Zone: After an ending takes place there is typically a bit of time before the new situation is ushered in. This time is referred to as the neutral zone. In order to engage my head during this time, I began researching the history of the Red Cross and looking more closely at the specific job duties that I would be undertaking. I also made it a point to meet some of the new people that I would be working with and introduce myself to the Red Cross Board of Directors. This helped me to feel like I was preparing myself mentally for my first day at my new job.
The neutral zone got a little trickier for me as I looked for ways to engage my heart. This involved making the time to say goodbye to people that I had worked very closely with for over five years. I shed some tears but was relieved to learn that the people who meant the most to me were genuinely happy for my new opportunity and wanted nothing but the best for me and my family. I also used this neutral zone time to make sure that I had updated contact information for the people with whom I wanted to stay in touch.
When it came to engaging my soul during the neutral zone, I used the time to count the many blessings that I had received as a result of my time with Hope Lives and count the things that I was looking forward to with my new position. I used this window of “down” time to nurture my spirit by spending time with my family, resting and reevaluating my personal and career goals.
3.) Celebrate a New Beginning: When the time finally came to begin my new position with the Red Cross, I felt excitement and eager anticipation thanks to the inner work that I had done during the previous two phases. My head was engaged as I excitedly looked forward to learning as much as I could during my training and orientation sessions. My heart was engaged as I began to bond with my new co-workers (and schedule lunch dates and brunches to stay in touch with my former Hope Lives connections.) Additionally, my soul became more engaged as I continued to learn about the good work that the Red Cross does and the significant positive impact that it has upon the lives of those who receive its services.
By fully engaging my head, heart and soul as I transition through this change in careers; I have been able to minimize the negative aspects of change and maximize the positive. I have experienced renewed energy and enthusiasm for what my professional future holds and am genuinely looking forward to bringing my skills, experience and passion to this new endeavor. By going through the process of engaging my head, heart and soul, I have ensured that both my logical side and my emotional side are in alignment with each other and are working together to create harmony in what could very easily have been a tumultuous situation. By engaging my head, heart and soul, I have helped to ensure that my transition through the three phases of change will ultimately bring me one step closer to my most FabYOUlous life.